The Athens Messenger, Sun, Oct 05, 2003 10:03 PM 

Environmental groups weigh in 

on Dysart Woods permit ruling

Buckeye Forest Council and Dysart Defenders filed separate notices Monday that they are appealing last month’s decision by the Division of Mineral Resources Management that granted a permit for limited coal mining under Dysart Woods in Belmont County.

The appeals were filed with the Ohio Reclamation Commission. Dysart Woods is owned by Ohio University and includes an old-growth forest. Ohio University also is challenging the permit, and released information on its appeal on Saturday.

According to Buckeye Forest Council, it is concerned the underground mining by Ohio Valley Coal Co. will adversely affect Dysart Woods, and the group retained a hydrologist, two mining engineers and a biologist to review the permit.

The appeal, according to the council, asserts that:

The state failed to assess the cumulative impact mining would have on the hydrology of the area.

The state failed to require Ohio Valley Coal Co. to submit an adequate water monitoring plan.

The state accepted the coal company’s unsupported assumption that subsidence will never occur.

Dysart Woods is a rare and irreplaceable treasure, one of the last remnant of Ohio’s original forests, said Joe Hazelbaker, an attorney for the council. “If ever a natural landmark were unsuitable for mining and deserving of special consideration, this is it.

According to Dysart Defenders, its appeal lists what the group claims are a series of violations of state laws and rules in the decision granting the mining permit. The group argues the mining would disrupt water sources serving the forest.

The change could kill ancient trees that have built root systems based on the existing hydrology, the appeal reads.

Dysart Defenders requested a stay to block mining while the appeal goes forward.

The Ohio Valley Coal Co., which was granted its permit request last month after years of debate over the environmental implications, said Monday it would defend the decision by the Division of Mineral Resources Management, according to an Associated Press report.

The environmental integrity of the mining plan was painstakingly reviewed for nearly two years, and the state of Ohio concurred with research conducted since 1990... that trees and other surface vegetation will absolutely not be affected by mining, the company said in a release.