Coal mine might sully T.R. park
An administrative law judge's decision to not convene a hearing in eastern North Dakota regarding a proposed South Heart coal mine is clearly within the rules, but not necessarily a wise call. Furthermore, the North Dakota Public Service Commissi...
An administrative law judge's decision to not convene a hearing in eastern North Dakota regarding a proposed South Heart coal mine is clearly within the rules, but not necessarily a wise call. Furthermore, the North Dakota Public Service Commission, while not required to conduct a session in the east, can still do so. The PSC should do just that.
The proposed mine near South Heart might seem like a local concern. It certainly is of great concern to nearby landowners. Many of them oppose the project. They are worried that ground water will be tainted, air will be polluted and the ranching and farming culture of the neighborhood will be destroyed. There also is a health worry: The coal deposit is associated with uranium deposits. Coal mine dust mixed with uranium dust can be a serious health hazard.
But because the mine would be only a few miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it is a matter of statewide interest. The potential for air quality and other problems with a mine near the park is more than enough reason to offer residents in eastern North Dakota an opportunity to weigh in.
In his refusal to schedule an informal eastern hearing (there was one in Dickinson, and there will be a second), Administrative Law Judge Allen C. Hoberg said that another informal hearing in another location has never been done. But it's been at least 30 years since a new coal mine was proposed. Times change.
Secondly, Hoberg dismissed a request for the eastern hearing from several environmental and conservation organizations and a landowner group because, he said, their Aug. 31 request was not timely. But he made his ruling on Sept. 16 -- curiously about two weeks after the Aug. 31 letter, but just one day after he received a Sept. 15 letter from an attorney representing the coal mine company, South Heart Coal LLC. In that letter, the company opposed an informal hearing in eastern North Dakota.
Whatever conclusions can be drawn from that juxtaposition, the PSC still can call an informal hearing and take testimony from interested parties. There is nothing preventing the PSC from being serious about the "public" in its name.
If the PSC declines, residents of eastern North Dakota will have an opportunity at an Oct. 19 public meeting at 7 p.m. in the Fargo Public Library. The groups that petitioned the judge will take testimony and forward the information to the PSC. They, in effect, will be doing what the PSC and/or the judge should be doing regarding a project that is as important in Fargo as it is in South Heart.