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Belmont County judge halts ODNR’s virtual meeting on injection well

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A court order prohibits the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from conducting a virtual public meeting on a proposed injection well permit that had been scheduled for today.

Attorney Michael Shaheen filed a motion on behalf of Robert E. Murray, chairman of Murray NewCo which was formed to acquire the assets of Murray Energy Corp. while it is in bankruptcy proceedings. Murray has long maintained operations in the area with a corporate headquarters on National Road near the proposed well site, located at the intersection of Interstate 70, U.S. 40 and Ohio 331 west of St. Clairsville.

In response to that motion, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra granted a temporary restraining order Thursday halting ODNR ‘s planned online meeting. In his journal entry on the matter, Vavra states that the proposed virtual format, using a service known as WebEX and limiting participation to 200 people, does not guarantee Murray the right to be heard on the matter.

“Our Constitution provides all of us with the right to Due Process; the right to reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard. Plaintiff has shown that the format of the proposed virtual meeting fails to protect and, consequently, violates that right guaranteed to Plaintiff. The Court, of course, is mindful that ODNR has tried its best but has limited options due to the pandemic,” Vavra states.

The restraining order is in effect for 14 days with a status conference on the matter set for April 17.

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