Hearing scheduled on mining company’s injunction request

Dispute between mining, pipeline companies back in court

June 17, 2013

WAYNESBURG – A hearing has been scheduled by Greene County Court on a motion filed by Alpha Natural Resources seeking to force Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. to protect its pipelines above an area where Alpha’s Emerald Mine intends to mine.

Greene County Judge William Nalitz has issued an order setting the hearing on the mining company’s preliminary injunction request for July 31. The hearing will be continued day to day as necessary, the order said.

Alpha filed a lawsuit against the pipeline company in 2011 seeking to force the company to complete mitigation work in an area above the mine’s “D” District, north of Waynesburg, that it now plans to mine during the first quarter of 2014.

Alpha said it has had ongoing communications with Texas Eastern since 2007 to ensure the work would be completed before the area was mined, but Texas Eastern has failed to take steps to mitigate damage to the pipelines.

Alpha filed a motion for preliminary injunction last month maintaining the pipeline mitigation work must be completed before mining can begin in the next area of the company’s coal reserves. Failure to resolve the matter could result in the company having to idle the mine and lay off employees, it said.

A spokeswoman for Texas Eastern said earlier the company does not comment on ongoing litigation but in its court filings the company has argued it has a “right to support” for its four pipelines in the mining company’s D District.

Alpha maintains Texas Eastern is responsible for protecting its pipelines in areas where surface subsidence could occur because of longwall mining. Texas Eastern is legally required to take steps to keep its pipelines from interfering with Emerald’s use of its property rights, which long pre-date the installation of Texas Eastern’s pipelines, it said.

Alpha said it has been willing to help with the process of getting the mitigation work completed in a timely manner, as it has done in prior instances with other pipeline operators. Texas Eastern’s failure to do the necessary work is putting Emerald’s current mining plans in jeopardy, it said.

Alpha also said it has asked the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which oversees pipeline safety, to direct Texas Eastern to implement necessary mitigation measures to assure the integrity of its pipelines during Emerald’s longwall mining.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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