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PUMPING CONTINUES AT MEIGS NO. 31

 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern Ohio Coal Company (SOCCO) will be able to continue pumping water from the Meigs No. 31 mine after a federal judge yesterday confirmed the company's authority to proceed.
 U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith yesterday temporarily stayed a U.S. EPA order that would have stopped the pumping from the mine into a tributary of Raccoon Creek.
 Beckwith directed that briefs be submitted in two weeks. Further administrative action by the U.S. EPA is precluded until then, the judge ruled.
 SOCCO had stopped pumping temporarily yesterday to comply with EPA's order, which was scheduled to go into effect at 1:20 p.m. Pumping resumed after Beckwith issued her ruling at about 2:10 p.m.
 Beckwith issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining on Aug. 19. The injunction prevented the agencies from stopping water removal efforts at the mine.
 Both agencies appealed the ruling to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and also asked for a stay of the injunction. The Court of Appeals denied the stay request from OSM, but granted it in part with regard to the U.S. EPA. The appellate court's ruling permitted the U.S. EPA to conduct an investigation of the Meigs mine pumping operation; however, the ruling enjoined U.S. EPA from issuing an order requiring the immediate cessation of pumping until after it had conclud an investigation and made necessary findings.
 The U.S. EPA issued its order to stop the water removal on Sept. 2, two days after receiving permission from the appeals court to conduct its investigation.
 Southern Ohio Coal attorneys yesterday asked Beckwith to enforce the injunction and nullify the U.S. EPA's administrative order, arguing that the agency did not conduct the necessary investigation in keeping with the intent of the appeals court ruling. Southern Ohio Coal also noted that the U.S. EPA had no basis to attempt to overrule the Ohio EPA's order, which made the pumping operation legal.
 "We are pleased that the U.S. District Court has granted us relief which permits the continued water removal process as approved by the Ohio EPA," said Jim Tompkins, Southern Ohio Coal vice president and general manager. "It is critical that we continue pumping from that section of the mine because it helps us to maintain ventilation. That is essential for safe operations as we begin repairing the mine."
 Southern Ohio Coal initiated its water removal plan July 30 under an order by the Ohio EPA that set strict standards the company must follow during and after the pumping.
 U.S. EPA claims that the water could harm wildlife and affect human health are unfounded, company officials said. Other than aquatic species, which the company had acknowledged would be affected mostly in Parker Run and Leading Creek, there has been no confirmed harm to wildlife and no effects to human health.
 The streams are not a source of public drinking water supplies.
 As originally projected by ecological experts, fish are already beginning to return to Leading Creek. Raccoon Creek and the Ohio River have experienced minimal effects.
 Approximately 300 Meigs No. 31 employees have been idled since water entered the mine on July 11.
 -0- 9/9/93
 /CONTACT: B.J. Smith, American Electric Power Fuel Supply Division, 614-687-3024/
 (AEP)


CO: Southern Ohio Coal Co.; American Electric Power Fuel Supply Div. ST: Ohio IN: UTI OIL SU:

AR -- CL027 -- 0478 09/09/93 16:46 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 9, 1993
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