Saturday, September 9, 2017

PADEP's quarry reclamation requirements upheld


Thomas Friestad reports for the Bucks Courier-Times:
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was "reasonable" in the reclamation requirements it set for New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime's quarry in Solebury, the five-person Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board ruled Thursday.
The board had originally deemed the quarry off Phillips Mill Road a "public nuisance" in July 2014 for "the unabated, unpredictable and dangerous formation" of at least 29 collapsed sinkholes on Solebury School's campus and other surrounding properties between 1989 and 2013, caused by mining operations, wrote board Judge Bernard Labuskes Jr. in the court's decision.
New Hope Crushed Stone had to fill in its mining pit with backfill to eliminate the nuisance, the DEP determined, but the quarry protested requirements the department gave it in a January 2016 plan.
The requirements, including assigning four laborers to work 40 hours each week and placing  a minimum of 200 cubic yards of fill in the pit per hour, were "arbitrary and capricious," New Hope Crushed Stone wrote in an appeal to the Environmental Hearing Board the next month. 
Quarry executives also argued that the DEP's requirements ignored "significant safety concerns" — winter precipitation could cause soil near the pit to slip and send laborers over the edge, said Lou Vittorio, the quarry's longtime consulting hydrogeologist. Christina Cursley, the quarry's chief financial officer, also echoed comments she sent the DEP in a June letter, saying the quarry had difficulty hiring and retaining employees, and therefore had to juggle training unskilled laborers while making progress on filling the pit.
But the DEP presented significant evidence that other quarries had safely performed reclamation during winter months, Labuskes wrote. And staffing difficulties or not, he wrote, the quarry's ability to comply with the DEP's requirements is "irrelevant" in determining whether those requirements are objectively reasonable. The Environmental Hearing Board ultimately dismissed the quarry's appeal.
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