Judge denied Emerald’s injunction but rules it has the right to extract coal
WAYNESBURG – Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. will be required to protect its pipelines above the area where the Emerald Mine plans to mine north of Waynesburg, though not before the first quarter of 2014, as the mining company had requested, according to an order issued Friday by Greene County Court.
Judge William Nalitz denied Emerald Coal Resource’s motion for an injunction that would have forced Texas Eastern to conduct the mitigation work to protect the lines before it began mining in the district in the first quarter of 2014.
Acting on motions for summary judgment, however, Nalitz also ruled that Emerald has the right to extract all the coal in the “D” District without leaving coal in place to support the pipelines and that Texas Eastern has an obligation to complete and pay for the mitigation work so as not to interfere with Emerald’s right to mine.
Nalitz denied summary judgment motions by Texas Eastern regarding the pipeline company’s right to support and ownership of the support estate.
The judge indicated an opinion setting forth the reasons for the decision will be issued later.
“We are pleased that the court ruled in favor of Emerald Coal Resources on the pure merits of the case,” Doug Conklin, general manager for Emerald Coal Resources, said in a released statement.
The order not only confirms that Emerald has a right to extract all the coal in the “D” District, but also that Texas Eastern has an obligation to implement and pay for measures that will mitigate any potential subsidence to their pipeline so as not to interfere with Emerald’s right to mine coal, he said.
“This should enable Emerald to preserve much needed jobs and continue to support the local economy of Greene County,” Conklin said.
Asked about the having the lines mitigated in time to allow the company to begin mining the district in the first quarter of 2014, a company spokesman said Emerald would work toward that goal.
A spokesman for Texas Eastern could not be reached for comment.
The decision came following two days of testimony last week and argument Thursday.
During the proceeding, Emerald claimed it’s deeds gave it the legal rights to mine coal in the “D” District without interference or liability in regard to the pipelines, but that Texas Eastern had refused to commit to completing the mitigation work needed to protect the lines in time for mining to begin there in the first quarter of 2014.
Delay in mining the “D” District jeopardizes the viability of the mine and could lead to the mine being idled, resulting in employee layoffs and schedule reductions and strained relations with employees, vendors and customers, Emerald claimed.
Texas Eastern has maintained it intended to complete the work, but because of a delay resulting from Emerald’s failure to confirm the date on which it planned to begin mining the “D” District, it wouldn’t be able to complete mitigation until September 2014.
The pipeline company also disputed Emerald’s property rights, claiming it owns the “right to support” beneath its pipelines. The company said its position was that it would proceed with the mitigation with the understanding if it prevails on the issue regarding its right to support, Emerald will reimburse it for the costs of mitigation.
Texas Eastern further maintained the court lacked jurisdiction to provide the relief requested by Emerald. Only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction over the design, operation and maintenance of interstate natural gas pipelines and only FERC could order the company to complete the mitigation measures, it said.