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Dozens at Meeting, Hearing on Applications for Mining, Reclamation Work in Pennsylvania County



May 20, 2023 - In Pennsylvania, more than 50 residents turned out Wednesday for a public meeting and hearing on three pending applications for mining and reclamation work in Frailey, Hegins and Porter townships.

Among the concerns residents raised at the session in the Tremont municipal building was how the work could affect water runoff and drinking water.

Applying for the permits are Rausch Creek Land LP, Rausch Creek Generation LLC and Rausch Creek Coal Mining Good Spring LLC.

Colleen Connolly, regional community director for the state Department of Environmental Protection office in Wilkes-Barre, told the group that comments and questions would only be answered if they pertained to the pending applications.

Dave Williams, a mining engineer for Rausch Creek, said the first application, from Rausch Creek Land LP, is for final reclamation grading and changing a parcel in Hegins and Porter townships to agriculture.

Williams said the large ash pit on-site will be covered with fill compatible with planting corn.

The cover materials will be in accordance with standards set by Penn State University's agricultural experts and no biosolid materials will be used, he said.

"We're very sensitive about biosolids," Williams said. "We're going to grow corn; there's no biosolids involved here."

In the second permit application, Rausch Creek Generation seeks a permit to add strip mining activities with blasting for a parcel in Frailey and Porter townships, and to install a haul road off Route 4011 for the operation.

The haul road would greatly reduce truck traffic currently traveling through Good Spring, Williams said.

The Rausch Coal Mining application is for an area in Hegins and Porter townships to add strip mining activities with blasting to the current surface mining permit and to change the post-mining land to unmanaged natural habitat.

Williams told the crowd again that no biosolids or hazardous materials would be used, only approved fertilizer.

In this area, Rausch Creek plans to plant 400 trees per acre, according to requirements by the state Bureau of Forestry, he said.

Citizens Speak

Ricky Ney Jr., of Tremont, questioned Williams and other Rausch Creek representatives about increased water runoff affecting Tremont or other nearby areas.

"There will be no effect of any additional water coming to Tremont," said Williams, adding that geological studies and site studies support his opinion.

Wendy Maidenford, of Good Spring, questioned why crops and trees are being planted atop the ash pits.

Williams said DEP regulations require 4 feet of fill on top of the ash unless the site is being converted into agricultural land, for which only 1 foot of top covering is required.

Placing 4 feet of fill on top the pit would be impossible given the parcel size, he said.

"We don't have the material to do it that way," Williams said. "If you don't have enough dirt, you can't reclaim it."

Tammy Saltzman, of Good Spring, asked about the source of the fertilizer.

Williams said it would come from a manufacturer and meet requirements set by Penn State.

Shirley Wagner, of Joliett, asked if blasting for the strip mine would damage homes or wells nearby.

Michael Kutney, permit chief in the local DEP office, said vibrations wouldn't travel far enough to cause damage.

Williams also told he group the proposed projects would have no effect on drinking water in the area.

"We're concluding there will be no impact on the wells," he said.

Linda Leese, of Joliett, manager of the Mountain Water Authority, which serves Lincoln, Joliett, Good Spring, Keefers and Lorberry, said DEP should not approve the permit requests because of the danger the projects pose to drinking water and wells.

"Water is such a precious resource. These guys are going to jeopardize that," she said. "It's absolutely insane."

Some residents told the panels that the explanations of the permit requests are confusing and that the answers given Wednesday didn't properly address the questions raised.

"It's double-talk; you don't have the information," said Charles Yerges, of Joliett.

After questions were asked and answered, residents were able to give testimony that was recorded by a stenographer.

Connolly said the stenographic record will be transcribed and DEP will release a community response document detailing the concerns and opinions presented.

After the transcripts are reviewed to see if any content might affect the proposed applications, a final review will be performed.

Rulings on the applications would then be made, but the process could take weeks or months, Connolly said.