Pack the room at OEPA public hearing on coal mine permit!

Please come help pack the room at OEPA’s public hearing, Thurs., Feb. 15, at 6 pm at Burr Oak Lodge, near Glouster, on the proposed Johnson Run strip mine in Trimble Township, Athens County.  At the hearing, you can testify and tell OEPA not to issue a permit for Oxford to pollute Johnson Run.  Or just take notes to submit comments after the hearing. Or just come and help pack the room to demonstrate that this strip mine must not be permitted in our county! CARPOOLING available from Athens Community Center solar panels 5:00-5:15 pm to go to Burr Oak Lodge.  (If time allows, you might also be able to get in on the owl prowl happening at the Lodge that evening!**)

Oxford Mining Company is close to obtaining an Ohio EPA permit to allow mine water sediment and minerals from coal company “ponds” to be discharged into Johnson Run, which flows into the West Branch of Sunday Creek.  Oxford’s plans, currently supported by OEPA’s draft permit approval, will cause such severe negative impact that this part of the watershed may never recover.

The Sunday Creek Restoration Project is one of Ohio’s great success stories. It is a stellar example of collaboration and cooperation of citizens, community organizers, Ohio University, Rural Action, ODNR and OEPA, working together to reclaim one of the most degraded watersheds in our county.  $2.5 million has been spent and decades of work put into restoring the West Branch of Sunday Creek. From a dead stream twenty years ago, the West Branch now hosts 17 species of fish and has reached water quality goals and the designation of warm water habitat over 14 miles of the creek. Restoration of the lower third of the West Branch will be completely undone, and the watershed downstream therefore impacted as well, if Johnson Run is mined.

The proposed mine is in a floodplain, and Oxford has yet to submit any FEMA-required plans to the county for approval. Oxford has not submitted engineering plans for mining within the stream buffer zone of Johnson Run. The company is still contesting the road variance request from the county. Both the ODNR mining application and the water quality permit applications are full of these contradictions and inadequacies, just like the applications Oxford submitted in 2010 for the Joy Hollow mine project in Bern Township.

OEPA Director Craig Butler has issued a draft NPDES (National Permit to Discharge Elimination System) permit and a statement, which misrepresents the facts. He wrote: “I have determined that a lowering of water quality in Johnson Run and subsequently West Branch Sunday Creek is necessary. In accordance with OAC 3745-1-05, this decision was reached only after examining a series of technical alternatives, reviewing social and economic issues related to the degradation, and considering all public and appropriate intergovernmental comments.”

Yet these are the facts: The director reviewed the 40 public comments submitted, all against the mine.  Athens County receives no tax dollars from the coal extracted. Oxford does not mention the 20 years of restoration work and millions of state federal and local dollars spent reclaiming the Watershed. Director Butler did not address Oxford’s lack of compliance with OAC 3745-01-05 (B)(3)(h), which requires: “To the extent that such information is known to those in the local community or is otherwise public, a listing and description of all government or privately sponsored conservation projects that have specifically targeted improved water quality or enhanced recreational opportunities on the water body affected by the activity.” Oxford does not mention the 20-year restoration project, therefore ignoring its profound social or economic value and all that value that will lost if this mine happens.  Oxford’s application instead discusses how the mine benefits Oxford, stating that the proposed surface mine is “essential for marketing strategies and as such a key element in the financial success of Oxford Mining Company LLC.”

Ignoring his responsibility for stewardship of Ohio’s environment as well as the solid chemical and biological evidence provided to him by the collaborative Sunday Creek Watershed Group of a high quality, recovered West Branch , and with an apparent intent to prop up and perpetuate the existence of a poorly managed surface mining business, Director Butler simply rubber-stamped Oxford’s misleading application.  Under federal and state law, Director Butler has a duty to preserve the remarkable improvements in the West Branch.  Instead, he proposes to destroy them.

OEPA and Oxford have provided no reasonable justification for Oxford to be allowed to degrade water quality of the West Branch of Sunday Creek, and have ignored negative economic and environmental impacts and input provided, apparently writing off Athens County and its citizens as collateral damage so a mining company can profit at our great loss.

Please come to the OEPA public hearing on Thurs., Feb. 15, at 6 p.m., at Burr Oak Lodge near Glouster (carpooling available from the Athens Community Center solar panels 5:00-5:15) to speak or just be present. In 2011, over 100 people attended the permit hearing for the proposed Joy Hollow mine, an Oxford Mining project. The public prevailed then, and we can prevail again. We can make a difference on pollution of our streams and climate issues by stopping the assault by the coal industry in our county. Every victory is positive change for our planet!

Written comments can be sent until Feb. 22, 2018. Include ID # 0IL00168*AD. to identify the permit.  E-mail to, or mail to: Ohio EPA-DSW, Permits Processing, PO Box 1049, Columbus Ohio 43215-1049.

E-mail for more information. Thanks for your support!

** The Owl Prowl starts with a presentation in the Burr Oak Lodge at 6:30 (with 1-2 owls), followed by Pat Quackenbush calling in owls nearby.