Current Update on Mining Permit Renewal - July 2021

Background

 In 2014, the Penna. Environmental Hearing Board ruled that Gibraltar Rock’s mining permits had been invalid since 2009 and ordered the company to apply for renewal of the mining permit, including the NPDES permit.  The Township, Ban-the-Quarry/Paradise Watchdogs, State Rep. Marcy Toepel, and Senator Bob Mensch, met at the DEP office in August 2017 to discuss the renewal.

With this order requiring Gibraltar Rock to file an application for their two permits, the process was completed and approved by the DEP in July of 2018.  New Hanover Twp. appealed the renewal because the mining will cause pollution from the adjacent Hoff VC HSCA Hazardous waste site (Good Oil Company).  The Paradise Watchdogs/Ban the Quarry also joined the appeal. 

 

On October 21-25, 2019, the PA Environmental Hearing Board held a trial at the DEP-Southeast Regional Office in Norristown, PA.   New Hanover Township and Paradise Watchdogs appealed the permit renewals of 2018, for the following reasons: 

 

-        PA-DEP had conducted fate and transport studies of the Hoff VC site that the Township and PWD believe were insufficient.  The hazardous site does exist today, and the DEP has no plan for remediation.

 

-        Gibraltar Rock’s two-dimensional fate & transport study was never reviewed by the DEP. No outside consultants were hired to review the study, and it was not reviewed by the DEP Southeast Regional Office that is in charge of the hazardous waste site.  Even with those deficiencies,

the DEP District Mining Office in Pottsville, PA, issued the permit renewals in July 2018.

 

-        Gibraltar Rock indicated at this 2019 hearing before the EHB that they do not like the conditions placed upon

them regarding the Hoff VC hazardous waste site.

 

Trial of Oct 21-25, 2019

Our attorney and the township attorney forced the EHB, the DEP, and Gibraltar Rock to take a hard look at the science and the reports that were presented by our experts.  The township hired McLane Environmental to conduct a Fate & Transport study; Dr. McLane testified at this trial.  Another superior study was presented by Toby Kessler, professional engineer for Gilmore & Associates.  We believe that Gibraltar Rock’s F & T study failed to meet the statutes and regulations and will result in pollution of a list of cancer-causing chemicals if the company is permitted to blast prior to total clean-up of the hazardous site.  We believe the PA-DEP committed a grave error in the renewal of Gibraltar Rock’s mining permit.

 

April 24, 2020

On this date, the PA-Environmental Hearing Board issued a decision RESCINDING the mining permits for Gibraltar Rock.  The Board was very critical of the experts for Gibraltar Rock, while finding the Township’s experts to be highly credible. The Board was also very critical of the analysis and actions taken by the DEP as well as their lack of coordination between the Pottsville Mining Office, which oversees the mining permits and the Southeast Regional DEP office, which oversees the Hoff VC under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.  In sum, the Board found the following: 

 

1) The DEP did not uphold its constitutional duty to fully consider and understand the environmental effects of permitting the quarry next to the Hoff VC site, all in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. 


2) The DEP failed to act with prudence and impartiality as the trustee of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources by permitting Gibraltar’s quarry, in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

 

3) The DEP erred in mistakenly concluding that Gibraltar’s operations could be reasonably accomplished in accordance with the law. 

4) Gibraltar’s application is not complete because it does not describe how a discharge potentially containing hazardous substances will be treated. 

5) Gibraltar has not shown that the quarry can be operated without disturbance to the prevailing hydrologic balance, without deleterious changes in groundwater quality, and without causing water pollution in violation of law.

6) The spread of multiple hazardous contaminants in the groundwater that would result from Gibraltar’s quarry pumping constitutes presumptive evidence of potential pollution that cannot be permitted consistent with the mining regulations.

7) The DEP erred in concluding that Gibraltar had demonstrated that there would be no presumptive evidence of potential pollution of waters of the commonwealth as a result of its mining activities next to the Hoff VC site.

 

 

May 22, 2020

Gibraltar Rock filed Petition for Review with the Commonwealth Court of Penna.  They are asking the court to overturn the PA-EHB decision of 4/2020 RESCINDING the mining permits of Gibraltar Rock.

 

March 2021

“Virtual” hearing with Commonwealth Court and the parties in the above Petition for Review filed by Gibraltar Rock.

 

 

June 30, 2021

The April 2020 Order of the Environmental Hearing Board is reversed by the Commonwealth Court.   The Court ruled that this matter is remanded (back to) the EHB, who is instructed to remand this matter to the PA-Department of Environmental Protection (Pottsville).  It is then the responsibility of the PA-DEP to direct Gibraltar Rock, Inc. on what it must do to obtain mining permits according to the Non-coal Surface Mining Conservation & Reclamation Act of December 1984.

 

June 2021

New Hanover Township will file an appeal with the Penna. Supreme Court.  Paradise Watchdogs/BTQ and our attorney believe the opinion of the Commonwealth Court is very misguided.