MWA Appeals Rustic Ridge Deep Mine Permit

Today, we filed an appeal of the issuance of a permit for LCT Energy LLC’s Rustic Ridge #1 mine with the Environmental Hearing Board. The Rustic Ridge deep mine, located in the Indian Creek sub-basin of the Youghiogheny River watershed, spans nearly 3,000 underground acres with a 67 acre surface facility located off of County Line Road in Donegal.

The appeal states, among other issues, that the permitted barriers are insufficient to prevent illicit discharges into the watershed and that the DEP did not adequately review this risky proposal. Permitting activity that would cause harm to the waterways is illegal under Pennsylvania law. Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services will represent us.

The same water pollution was predicted by DEP in 1994 when it denied the Rand Am deep mine proposal in the same area. The Rustic Ridge mine shares a portion of its footprint with the Rand Am proposal. DEP’s denial of the Rand Am mine was upheld by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in 1996.  

“As there have been no major geologic events in the permitted area since 1994 that would alter the potential for harms previously  identified by the DEP, in issuing this permit the DEP has ignored their own findings from 1994,” stated Beverly Braverman, MWA’s Executive Director. “In appealing this decision, we hope the DEP’s decision will be voided and that LCT will be required to permanently and immediately cease mine construction.”

“By issuing this permit, DEP has disregarded volumes of expert opinion submitted by our organization regarding the threats posed by this mine,” continued Braverman. “For example, our experts have expressed concern that LCT’s proposed 500ft barrier is inadequate to prevent toxic metals and pollutional mine drainage. An appeal was our only option for protecting our watershed and our community.”

“The taxpayers of Pennsylvania have made an enormous investment in cleaning up dangerous and polluting abandoned mines in the Indian Creek watershed. These efforts have had a measurable impact on water quality in the Youghiogheny River and have helped to facilitate the emergence of a new, sustainable tourism-based economy here in Fayette County,” stated Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper. “The Youghiogheny River is an incredibly valuable regional economic asset. We will not allow it to be sacrificed for the short-term benefit of a private company.”

In addition to the appeal, we’ve engaged in multiple efforts to raise awareness of the issues associated with this proposal, including a rally last evening at an event sponsored by LCT Energy. Faced with the prospect of yet another highly industrial, dangerous mining operation so close to their homes, over 50 residents attended to show strong resistance to LCT’s plans.

Above: Community members, many with homemade signs, rally outside an LCT sponsored event on January 12, 2017.

At the event, Gil Widenhofer, spokesman for LCT, stated that a two million dollar “community trust” would be established to support area projects, but only if residents did not exercise their legal right to bring the appeal. Widenhofer stated, “If we spend a couple million dollars defending the permit, which we are prepared to do, it will be very difficult to provide funding for the community fund,” Widenhofer said.  

“LCT’s refusal to fund the community trust in the event of an appeal shows both their lack of commitment to our community and their lack of confidence in their proposal.  The amount offered for the community trust is insultingly insufficient when compared to the potential environmental devastation, particularly in an area economically dependent on its natural resources.” stated Beverly Braverman. “We will not be held hostage by inappropriate offers from LCT , and we will never stop fighting for our homes and our water.”

Above: Concerned citizens dressed in orange to show solidarity attend a LCT Energy sponsored event on January 12, 2017.