Rustic Ridge Deep Mine Project – IMPORTANT UPDATE – January 25, 2018
As MWA has discussed before multiple times, we have been fighting the Rustic Ridge mine for various reasons – the effect on property values, traffic, air pollution, aesthetic beauty of our community etc. However, in front of the Environmental Hearing Board, our case rested on the effect the mine has on our watershed. In particular, we had two strong points in our case: 1) The barrier between the old Melcroft mine and Rustic Ridge was insufficient, and a breach could lead to devastating discharges in our watershed and 2) The discharges into Champion Creek would overwhelm the stream and our watershed.
Our case primarily rested on our expert witnesses stating the permit was insufficient because of these two issues. The judge’s role is to review the decision of the DEP, and he’s required to give “deference” to their expertise when possible. At the hearing, we would have had to prove that they “abused their discretion” in issuing the permits, which is a pretty high bar to meet. However, we believed that we could meet this bar if we brought up the issues of the barrier and the discharges into the stream
However, early on in the discussions on Tuesday, LCT brought up these two points and said that they would increase the barrier and decrease the discharge into the stream to meet the recommendation from our expert witness. This tied our hands, because if we went forward with the hearing and LCT committed to changing these most egregious problems with the permit, it was very likely the judge would simply agree to those changes and ask us to trust the DEP’s expertise by upholding the rest of the permit. We realized then that it might be in our interest to settle before the hearing so that we could establish more protections for the watershed and local homeowners.
Our lawyers and mining expert worked to establish a series of other stipulations, such as stricter regulations on blasting to decrease its impact, increased monitoring for potential discharges, retesting of private drinking wells, and others. After working out these stipulations, they were presented to our Board last night. Following a lengthy discussion, our Board approved the settlement.
That being said, this battle is not over. We are going to have to continue monitoring LCT and making sure that they abide by their permit and these stipulations. We can also discuss other avenues for advocacy or the potential for civil litigation. This may not have been the outcome that we wanted, but now the mine will at minimum have to abide by regulations much stricter than the DEP’s and hopefully set a precedent for mines elsewhere.
If you have any immediate questions, please feel free to reach out to Melissa Marshall, or Beverly Braverman. Otherwise, MWA will continue monitoring all mining activity to ensure that LCT meets the stipulations agreed upon by the settlement in order to continue upholding their mission of protecting, preserving, and restoring the Indian Creek and greater Youghiogheny River watersheds.