Burr Oak Coal Appeal Ruled In Favor Of Feds

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The state of Ohio did not have the authority to enter into a lease that allowed Buckingham Coal Co. to mine beneath Burr Oak State Park, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision was filed Thursday by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2010, the state gave Buckingham Coal permission to mine a corridor of coal beneath the park as part of a deal under which the state received payment for the coal and Buckingham gave coal rights closer to Burr Oak Lake to the state. The corridor would connect Buckingham’s coal reserves on opposite sides of the park.

The Corps of Engineers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing that the state did not have the authority to enter into the deal without the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the mining would take place within a federal flood control project area. The Tom Jenkins Dam at Burr Oak was built for flood control.

After a U.S. District Court judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order to block the mining while the lawsuit was pending, Buckingham mined the corridor. The same judge later ruled in favor of the state and Buckingham in the lawsuit, granting them a summary judgment and denying the Corps of Engineers a summary judgment.

The federal government appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Thursday, in an opinion written by Circuit Judge Helene White, the appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, in effect ordering the district court to grant summary judgment to the federal government.

The appeals court ruled that prior documents between the state and Corps did not allow the state to lease the coal rights to Buckingham without the Corps’ approval. The appeals court also ruled that the 1962 deeding of the property by the federal government to the state did not void those documents.