Alt said, "The steep slopes in the area make it advisable that we allow for disturbance within 100 feet of a stream since they are going to be placing designed valley fills for the 15 percent overburden excess spoil in the valley fills for in-stream drainage structures in order to control the disturbance of the valley fills."
During his December deposition, Alt testified that, when they receive a buffer zone variance request, DEP permit reviewers, "make sure that the fill and the location and the size is adequate for what's needed."
"Once it's determined that ... there's going to be a fill, then they go ahead and design and give a variance to allow them to construct that fill in a stream," Alt said.
Patrick C. McGinley, a lawyer for the Conservancy, asked Alt, "So, in essence, if the permit applicant tells DEP that they are using mountaintop removal mining methods and they have to put excess spoil in stream segments and that the placement of that excess spoil will be stable, you and your permit review team dispense with the [buffer zone regulations]?"
Alt replied, "Yes."
In a later deposition, DEP assistant chief for permitting Lewis A. Halstead testified that buffer zone variances are not supposed to be granted on the basis outlined by Alt.
DEP officials refused further comment Thursday afternoon.
Industry lawyers have argued that the buffer zone requirement does not apply to valley fills because the fills are specifically authorized by other parts of the strip mining law.