James Meade, an assistant counsel to the governor´s office, told an administrative law judge last week that the two sides are negotiating a settlement even as the appeals process continues.
Meanwhile, attorney Wayne Martin of Camp Hill, who represents Zion, withdrew from the case, according to board records.
A month earlier, Meade told Judge Richard P. Mather Sr. that Zion has been unwilling to meet to discuss a settlement, and his deposition had been delayed. He was scheduled to be deposed Nov. 16. Meade said the testimony was delayed but gave no reason.
Zion has refused to sell or clean up the former Jeannette Glass property, which the DEP said is contaminated by hazardous and toxic wastes. That prompted the agency to cite Zion with violations of the Clean Streams and Air Pollution Control acts, the Solid Waste Recycling Act and the Environmental Remediations Standards Act.
Zion appealed the violations to the Environmental Hearing Board. The city of Jeannette has levied $50,000 in fines against Zion for failing to clean up the site. He is appealing the fines.
A hearing and decision on Zion´s DEP appeal is a long way off.
Mather gave both sides until Jan. 31 to depose witnesses and until Feb. 29 to interview expert witnesses. Motions aren´t due until March 15, and a hearing won´t be scheduled until after May 1, according to Mather´s timetable.
City officials expressed doubt about the sincerity of Zion´s willingness to negotiate, saying he´s failed to fulfill previous promises and the site remains a nuisance and a danger to the public.
"He´s been saying it for years," Mayor Robert Carter said. "If it´s not in writing, I won´t put a lot of faith in it until he inks an agreement with his signature."