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Judge: Ohio within rights to issue coal permit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday ended a lawsuit in favor of the state of Ohio over mine tunnels being developed within the watershed of a state park reservoir.

A lawsuit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alleged Ohio's 2010 decision to issue a permit to Buckingham Coal Co. violated a 1948 state-federal agreement that created the park and reservoir.

The state contended the 1948 agreement didn't prevent Ohio from leasing coal rights.

Federal judge James Graham sided with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, saying the government hadn't presented evidence that Ohio breached any obligations with the Corps.

"To the extent that the United States claims that the State of Ohio has interfered with the flood control purposes of the project, it has provided no evidence on this point," the judge ruled.

The state is pleased the judge ruled that Ohio acted within its authority, said Natural Resources spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle. The U.S. Justice Department and Buckingham Coal did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Two years ago, Graham denied a government request for a temporary restraining order to keep the company from excavating and doing other work on the project.

Buckingham's project links an existing mine about two miles from Burr Oak State Park in southeast Columbus with new coal reserves.

Mining is underway, McCorkle said.

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