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Rustic Ridge mine group, environmentalists reach settlement

Stephen Huba
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The parties in the Rustic Ridge #1 Deep Mine permit appeal have reached a settlement after the mining company agreed to “an array of conditions,” the Mountain Watershed Association said.

The settlement means that a hearing before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board scheduled for next week in Pittsburgh will not go forward, group spokeswoman Ashley Funk said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued permits to Johnstown-based LCT Energy LP in December 2016 for it to pursue mining operations in Donegal Township in Westmoreland County and Saltlick Township in Fayette County.

The permits were challenged by the Mountain Watershed Association, a Fayette County conservation group, over concerns that the Rustic Ridge mine would lead to further degradation of the Indian Creek Watershed.

Funk said the settlement reached on Thursday commits LCT Energy to address two of the association’s chief concerns – that the barrier between the Melcroft #3 mine and Rustic Ridge was insufficient and that discharges from the mine would overwhelm Champion Creek, a tributary of Indian Creek.

Funk said LCT agreed to increase the barrier between Melcroft #3 and Rustic Ridge from 800 feet to 1,400 feet and to “dramatically decrease” the discharge from Outfall 003 into Champion Creek.

“In addition to addressing our permit concerns, LCT consented to an array of conditions intended to help protect the quality of life for the nearby community,” Funk said, noting that the conditions “far exceed” DEP requirements.

Those conditions include:

• Tree planting and use of minimally invasive lighting.

• Decreasing the decibels and frequency of blasts during construction.

• Sharing new information and records with the association throughout the life of the mine.

“This means that although DEP monitors certain data, MWA can act as an additional watchdog,” Funk said.

LCT Energy released a statement saying that none of the permit modifications will impair the company’s ability to implement and maintain a “robust production schedule.”

“LCT is pleased to have this matter amicably resolved, and we look forward to continuing operations at Rustic Ridge #1,” LCT President Mark Tercek said.

The company, which has been working on the design of Rustic Ridge since 2010, will mine an estimated 2,886 acres of the Lower Kittanning coal seam for metallurgical coal.

Vice President Gil Widenhofer declined to answer questions beyond the scope of the statement.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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