NEW WINDSOR — A citizens committee drafting a mineral mining plan could be exceeding the county's authority to impose performance standards on mining companies, a state official warned.
The caution came in a June 7 letter from Robert D. Miller, deputy director of the Water Resources Administration of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to a Carroll Department of Planning official.
A New Windsor group, which monitors the mining industry in the Wakefield Valley area, charged yesterday that the planning official withheld the letter from the committee and has asked the Board of CountyCommissioners to investigate.
K. Marlene Conaway, assistant director of the planning department, said she gave the letter to the County Attorney's Office and asked that case law on the topic be researched.
She said she was waiting for a legal opinion on Miller's position before bringing the matter before the Mineral Resources Advisory Committee.
"There'd be no reason for me to keep it from the committee. We're working together," she said.
"The reason I haven't made a big deal of it is I wanted my county attorney to look at it," Conaway said.
Assistant County Attorney Michelle Ostrander said she hasbeen researching the roles of the county and the DNR regarding mining operations for about a month, but is not finished.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said yesterday that she had read Miller's letter quickly but had not had time to talk to Conaway or Miller.
"It's definitely something we have to look into," she said.
The committee of nine citizens has been working with county planning staff since January to write a mineral mining plan that would protect mineral resourceswhile minimizing the effects of mining on people living near quarrying operations.
Conaway said she sent a copy of a draft report to Miller as "a courtesy." The DNR does not have the authority to approveor reject the report, she said; the county commissioners do.
Miller wrote that county zoning law does not give the county authority toregulate mining activities or establish performance standards. Once the county determines that mining can be allowed on certain land, thestate regulates how the mining operation should be conducted, Millerwrote.
Conaway said the county retains authority to regulate certain activities, such as hours of operations, truck traffic and landscaping. She said the committee has been careful not to step into the state's jurisdiction.
Leaders of the New Windsor Community Action Project say that if the mining plan is approved as written, the miningindustry could challenge the performance standards in court and win.
"Then citizens will be left unprotected," said NEWCAP President Linda S. Cunfer.
The group has proposed an alternative mining plan to the committee's.
Mineral Resources Advisory Committee member Fred Teeter, who works for The Arundel Corp., said he received a copy of Miller's letter from a representative of another mining company a couple of weeks ago and made copies for other committee members.
Committee member Jon Buck said, "I personally thought it was an important letter and was surprised it wasn't shown to the committee."
He said he plans to discuss the letter at tomorrow's committee meeting.