Subject: Community Opposes Mine in Ohio
Time: 8:08:40 AM
FROM: Athens News, Athens, Ohio January 4, 2000
Opinions differ on Glouster mine, rail line - Supporters see jobs and environmental safety; foes don't
By Nick Claussen Athens NEWS Writer
New rail service, new jobs and a new coal mine are getting closer to coming to the Glouster area. Buckingham Coal Company employees are currently working in two daily 10-hour shifts, six days a week, to prepare the site just outside of Glouster for mining, according to Claude Imlerl, mining manager for Buckingham Coal Company. He said the mine should be operational by June, but could possibly be ready as early as March.
Although Imlerl and many others are excited about the mine, the jobs it will provide and the rail service that will be stopping in Glouster to pick up the coal, some area residents have concerns about the environmental impact of the new mine.
Local environmental activist Chad Kister has spoken out against the mine for the last several years, and has an appeal pending with the Ohio Environmental Review and Appeals Commission to try to stop the mine. Kister said he filed the appeal at the beginning of last year and sought an injunction to stop work on the mine but was unsuccessful.
"It's unfortunate that they can do so much damage before the appeal is heard," Kister said. His appeal, which is due to be heard in April, focuses on water coming from the mine. Kister maintains that tainted mine-water will pollute drinking water for area residents and hurt Sunday Creek, which has been heavily damaged over the years by polluted drainage from now-abandoned mines.
Kister, who has announced his intention to run in the Democratic primary for Athens County Commissioner, said the new mine will run into abandoned mines and release polluted water. In addition to Sunday Creek being damaged, the water could also pollute the Hocking River, he said. He added that he's concerned the mining will hurt the foundations of some homes around Glouster and damage the local tourism industry because the mine is located near state and federal lands that draw tourists.
Trimble Township Trustee Broc Irwin, a former county commissioner, said he's encouraged about the new jobs coming to the area with the mine, and will watch closely for any environmental problems. "Do I like to drive by there and see that hole in the ground? No I don't. But I do like to drive by and see people working out there," Irwin said. He acknowledged that in the past, mines caused environmental problems for the area, especially in Sunday Creek. Irwin is helping to lead an effort to clean up the creek. "I want to see that those people don't do anything to mess up our efforts," Irwin said. "Everything in this state today is in line to see that what they do up there they do right."
As a township trustee, Irwin said he will do everything he can to be a good neighbor to the mine and help it succeed, while also watching over its impact on the environment. He said coal company officials say that when the mine is finished, the land will be reclaimed. and it will be as nice as it once was. "If I get any complaints, it won't take but a minute to call the EPA (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency)," Irwin added.
The coal company is projected to create around 100 jobs once the mine opens, Irwin said, which will be good for the area. The company is not hiring any employees yet.
"Anything that happens in Trimble Township has to help our school system," Irwin added. Buckingham Coal Company representatives have said over the last few years that they understand the concerns of environmentalists, but that the mine will not hurt the area. When the coal company was finished with a mine up in Perry County, Imlerl said, the land there was reclaimed and is now in very good condition.
Buckeye Forest Council member Jason Tockman, who was critical of the coal company's reclamation of the mine in Perry County, said there's vegetation at the Perry County site now, but it's all grass. The pasture that replaced former woodlands has dramatically altered the eco-system, Tockman argued. The Buckeye Forest Council has not been involved in issues surrounding the Glouster mine, Tockman added. Imlerl said the current mine runs through where a valley used to be, and that the land will be reclaimed. He pointed out that woodlands are still abundant around the mine and that wildlife in the area has not been damaged.
There should be no problems with any water runoff from the mine, he added, because a system has been set up to make sure the water is clean and does not pollute anything. The acidity levels in the water are tested regularly and the company is operating safely, Imlerl said.
The mine also will have plenty of benefits, Imlerl added. Jobs will be created, another energy supply will be available for the area, and rail service will stop in Glouster.
"This is some of the best coal in Ohio," Imlerl said. The coal is low in sulfur and will be mined for at least five years. There may be enough coal to mine the land for up to 10 or 15 years, he added. The coal will go to an American Electric Power plant in Coneville.
As for the rail service, Imlerl said the coal will be taken by conveyor belt from the mine across Ohio Rt. 13 to the railroad tracks where the trains will stop and pick up the coal. No rail service currently stops in Glouster, though trains do go through the town. ACCORDING TO A SPOKESPERSON for the Ohio Rail Development Commission, the railroad tracks going to and through Glouster will be rebuilt for rail service for the coal.
Ohio Southern Railroad received a $2 million grant and a $3.5 million loan from the commission last year to rebuild the line.
According to the commission, railroads have seen an upswing in business in the last 10 years, in part because trains can transport so much more product than trucks can.
Once the coal company is finished taking coal from the ground, Imler said, the ground at the site near the road will be leveled off and may be turned into an industrial park that could be attractive for businesses due to the rail service.
Irwin said that from his experience as an Athens County Commissioner, it appears to him that the rail service could help bring in new businesses. "When we talked to companies, the first thing they would ask me about was the rail line," Irwin recalled
© 2000 Athens News