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Bid to halt mining near Kanawha State Forest rejected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. Following a four-hour hearing Thursday, the West Virginia Surface Mining Board late Friday announced that it had denied motions by the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and 10 individuals to temporarily halt operations at Keystone Development’s new mountaintop removal coal mine on the eastern edge of Kanawha State Forest and to delay a final hearing on whether the project is properly permitted.

Represented by Charleston attorney William DePaulo, the Keeper of the Mountains group hoped to stop further deforestation and earthmoving activity at the 418-acre mine site until it could be determined if Keystone used outdated data to conclude that no endangered bat species live on the property. The conservation group also argued that Keystone failed to address notices from the State Historic Preservation Office cautioning that architecturally significant structures are present in Kanawha State Forest and should be taken into account to avoid possible damage, and sought to postpone a final hearing on the validity of the project’s permit from Aug. 11 to Sept. 11.

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit to Keystone to begin developing its KD No. 2 mine on May 6. Work began at the site in early June. On July 15, the DEP issued Keystone a cessation order, halting activity at the mine until it built a ditch to carry off sediment in advance of construction and repaired another sediment ditch on which cracks had developed. That cessation order was modified to a notice of violation on Monday, allowing activity to resume at the mine.

On Thursday, plaintiffs’ attorney DePaulo told members of the Surface Mining Board that a four-night bat survey conducted at the mine site in June 2009 that turned up no federally protected bats should now be ruled out-of-date and invalid, since DEP standards consider such surveys useful only for five years. DePaulo cited correspondence between DEP environmental resource analyst Kevin Quick and an environmental consultant for Keystone, in which Quick stated that 2009 bat survey results “will expire June 21, 2014…

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