PSC cites coal company with 376 deficienciesLocal groups are concerned about a coal company’s 376 deficiencies, while the company and North Dakota Public Service Commission representatives attribute minor technical errors to the shortcomings.
By: By Sean M. Soehren, The Dickinson Press
Local groups are concerned about a coal company’s 376 deficiencies, while the company and North Dakota Public Service Commission representatives attribute minor technical errors to the shortcomings.
Deficiencies range from typos and incorrect web links to questions about groundwater and the presence of uranium.
South Heart Coal, LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Great Northern Project Development, LP, was given the nod of completeness on Jan. 10 from the PSC regarding an application for a strip coal mine west of South Heart.
The application underwent multiple revisions before being deemed complete. However, application completeness does not warrant approval of the permit, PSC Director of the Reclamation Division Jim Deutsch said.
SHC was required to publish notices about the project for four consecutive weeks. Once the final notice was published, any person objected to the proposed activity was encouraged to comment and had 30 days to do so.
NoDaks Opposed to Ripping Up South Heart coalition representative Mary Hodell said more than 300 comments were sent to the PSC from North Dakota residents and vacationers, with postcards coming from as far as California and North Carolina.
On March 28, after the comment period, the PSC sent a letter detailing 376 deficiencies in the company’s application.
“Our thoughts are they should complete the application, fix deficiencies and then start the comment period,” Hodell said. “The public is supposed to comment on the complete application.”
Deutsch said the application was complete and the process was quite normal.
“It is typical on an application at this magnitude to be submitted a second or third time,” he said regarding the multiple revisions. Companies previously have had permits issued while initially having 250 deficiencies, he said.
He added that many shortcomings of the technical review were rather minor and were things that needed further clarification.
“There are deficiencies definitely, but they are deficiencies that are going to be readily and easily modified and corrected,” Local SHC Spokesperson Neal Messer said.
Hodell said the public should have been made aware and had the option to comment on all deficiencies no matter how small.
“They claim it is technical error, but if it is deficient, it is deficient,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it is I’s not dotted or T’s not crossed.”
The Texas-based company had submitted the application three times before having the application confirmed complete.
The completeness approval was used to assess if the company had addressed all applicable permit concerns and a more in-depth review is used to clarify plans, Deutsch said. The 376 deficiencies were found during the detail review process.
“I think they looked deeper into it,” Hodell said. “The more they are going to look into it, the more errors they will find.”
Deutsch said the revisions are used to remedy errors and ensure adherence to law.
“From the staff level, if we determine that all requirements have been met and addressed, at that point I believe we would recommend commission approval,” he said “For those opposing this, they need to make a case indicating where they believe this application does not comply with law.”
Messer said the deficiency alert is a way to keep things moving.
“It is an ongoing process for most mining companies to get the mining permit,” he said.
Deutsch said the public will be involved throughout the process.
An informal public conference will be held to address any concerns on June 28 in Dickinson State University’s Beck Auditorium.