On Oct. 29 the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ), based in Washington PA, served notice to EPA and the DEP that they intend to sue the operators of Emerald #1 longwall mine in Waynesburg. The notice cites hundreds of violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Perhaps not too unrelated, on Nov. 7 when the shares all the coal companies took a dive with Obam’s election, the company that owns the Emerald mine, Alpha Natural Resources, lead the dive with a 14 pct drop.
|June 16, 2012|
|12:00 pm||to||4:00 pm|
The Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) invites all to a festival that commemorates the seventh year of a dry lake in Ryerson Station SP. With fun, family, food, and music, the community is drawing attention to the need to restore a lake that was drained by underground long-wall mining.
Noon to 4 pm, Saturday, June 16
Ryerson Station State Park,
361 Bristoria Road, Wind Ridge, PA 15380
We’ll have the wonderful band 2/3 Goat and free food in the beautiful state park. Come out and share stories on Duke Lake and show you how together we can fight to restore it to its former beauty.
Under pressure from the coal industry, in 1994 the state legislature passed Act 54 which allowed longwall mining in the Pennsylvania. That there is a need to revise Act 54 was evident at an October 4 public hearing at Washington & Jefferson College. The hearing was held by the DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, with more than 100 people attending. It was part of a three-day visit by Council members to Greene and Washington Counties to examine the impacts of longwall mining, impacts that were analyzed in detail for the Citizens Coal Council this past Spring. (more…)
The failure of the dam at Ryerson Station SP is just one instance of the damage wrought by long-wall mining in SW Pennsylvania. An independent analysis, commissioned by the Citizens Coal Council and published April 17, of a required review undertaken by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP), showed that the DEP has failed to protect property owners and the state’s land and water resources from harm by longwall mining. (more…)
Consol Ordered to Repair Ryerson Station SP Dam – Appeals – CCJ Intervenes – and then Ground Shifts Again
Ryerson Station State Park has been without Duke Lake since the dam was damaged in 2005. At that time environmental groups such as the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) and the Sierra Club blamed the damage on below-ground long-wall mining. Eventually the DEP agreed that mining in Consol Energy’s Bailey mine was responsible. DEP ordered Consol to pay for repair of the dam. Consol went before the state Environmental Hearing Board to appeal the DEP order. On April 15 CCJ was granted intervenor status in the appeal, on the side of DEP. Days later the DEP withdrew its order to Consol because the ground around the dam was still shifting. (more…)
In 2005 the dam for the 62-acre Duke Lake at the center of Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County collapsed. This month the Dept. Environmental Protection ordered Consol Energy to repair the dam.
Commenting on the DEP action, former chair of the Allegheny Group’s Coal Committee, Phil Coleman stated: “It has taken five years for two state agencies to declare what they knew all along. Consol’s long-wall mining destroyed the dam and citizens of Greene County have done without the centerpiece of their only state park for far too long. Further, Consol and other mines continue to mine using a theory of damage that doesn’t work. The state has kept the public from seeing the study that proves that damage occurs much more broadly than the industry claims. It is ironic that DEP is asking Consol to pay less for repair of the dam than DCNR spent for the study they are hiding.” (more…)
For years, mining companies in Pennsylvania have claimed that long-wall mining has limited impact on surface structures. Disputing this claim, environmentalists looked at the collapse of a dam in Ryerson Station State Park as an example of damage caused by long-wall mining. The Dept. of Environmental Protection has now acknowledged that this mining practice was indeed responsible for the collapse. As pointed out in the following account, this DEP finding could affect how the state will regulate long-wall mining in the future.
If you wanted a free hand to drill with impunity for Pennsylvania’s buried oil and gas, you must have had an inner smile when you read about what was in the state’s budget.
DEP: A cut of $56 million or 26.7% in the Department of Environment Protection’s budget. This could lead to the loss of 300 staff positions. This is at a time when the DEP needs MORE qualified employees to ensure that Marcellus shale drilling is done with strict environmental controls.
Oil & Gas Fund: A shift of $143 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the General Fund. This fund was established in 1955 to use leases for the oil and gas operations on state forest lands to be used for conservation, recreation, dams, and flood control.
State Forest Leasing Mandate: Accompanying the budget bill is a separate requirement regarding the Oil and Gas Fund. To achieve future raids on the Oil And Gas Fund of $60 million in 2009-10 and $180 million in 2010-11, the Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation is required to lease sufficient state forest land to produce the target drilling revenues.
Severance Fee: What the legislature failed to do was impose a new severance fee on natural gas production, a fee that is needed to fund proper protection of the environment from harmful drilling practices. This pass on a severance tax is a clear illustration of the power of the oil and gas industry, as explained in an extensive Philadelphia Inquirer report. Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state without such a severance fee.
A major environmental impact of coal mining is damage to Western Pennsylvania’s streams. Two items appeared this past week.
The first item illustrates the influence of the coal industry in the state legislature. On July 27, the PA House Environment and Energy Resources committee passed HB 1847 by a vote of 18-2. This bill allows CONSOL Energy to create coal refuse disposal areas (CRDAs or gob piles) that would fill nearly 5 miles of streams and more than 5 acres of wetlands in the area of Owens Run in Indiana County. HB 1847 now moves to the Appropriations Committee. (more…)
Here in SW Pennsylvania a large portion of our electricity is produced with coal removed from mountain tops. But coal also comes from closer to home, dug from below the surface by longwall mining.
The video suggests that there are two villains here, the coal industry as led by Consol Energy, and the state’s Dept. of Environmental Protection.
While Mountain Top Removal is devastating West Virginia and Kentucky, long-wall mining is having its own miserable impact here in southwest Pennsylvania.
One of the largest long-wall mines in Pennsylvania is Consol Energy’s Bailey Mine near Crabtree in Greene County. In 2006 this mine produced 10.2 million tons of coal. How that coal was mined is shown in a 7-minute video with the following introduction:
“After investigating the surface impacts of longwall mining, Center for Public Integrity reporter Kristen Lombardi went underground to witness the coal extraction method first hand. Led by representatives of Consol Energy and accompanied by photographer Steven Sunshine, Lombardi toured the 9-I panel of Bailey Mine, operating near Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania. Bailey Mine is more than twice the size of the city of Pittsburgh and is the third-largest bituminous colliery in the United States, snaking below the surface for 144 square miles.”
A second video at the same website illustrates the types of damage produced by long-wall mining.
By Phil Coleman, Chair, Mining Committee, Allegheny Group
In recent years, West Virginia has been the poster child for coal. In a state that has always been celebrated for its mountains, the coal industry’s practice of mountain top removal is so overtly damaging that one or two pictures are all that is needed to persuade. Cutting away a mountain top of stone and clay to retrieve the narrow veins of coal beneath is such an obviously destructive practice that you don’t even have to know about the miles of streams that are destroyed in the process to be outraged.
Pennsylvania is not a poster child. Most mining damage is hidden away, out of sight. But it is damage nevertheless.
Pennsylvania’s heritage over the past century and a half is one of bad mining practices. Scars rule the landscape in the eastern anthracite regions where miles of spoil stand barren and unreclaimed. Gob piles loom like barren mountains in southwestern Pennsylvania, reminders of the history of bituminous room and pillar mining. Thousands of miles of streams run acid because of bad surface and deep mining practices.
Throughout the state the coal industry now proclaims itself “Green and Clean,” but it is not. It claims that it no longer damages the landscape, that it doesn’t destroy streams, that it repairs any damage to houses to the satisfaction of the owners. Its claim is that longwall mining will cause subsidence so quickly and evenly that nothing is harmed.
But the truth is that longwall mining is destructive in many ways. It cracks houses, sometimes irreparably. It damages roads and highways. It breaks gas and water lines. It dries springs and wetlands and destroys streams.
Consider Roy and Diane Brendels’ historic home in Greene County. After six years of torturous attempts to shore it up and stop the cracks, the mining company, Consol Energy, finally paid a settlement to the Brendels and tore down their 12-room stone and stucco Spanish Revival home which had been listed in the National Historic Register. The Brendels, worn out by litigation and unable to live in their beautiful old home, had to sign an agreement with Consol not to discuss the settlement in order to receive any recompense. Many believe that Mrs. Brendel’s death at 61 was hastened by the strain and grief she experienced during their ordeal.
Consider the dam at Duke Lake, in Ryerson Station State Park. This dam was cracked by by geologic stress from nearby longwall mining. However, Consol Energy claims that it is not to blame. The state of Pennsylvania is now suing Consol for $50 million.
Consider South Fork, a stream that the Fish Commission stocked with trout each spring. After it was undermined, it went dry and made a subsequent pond downstream.
When damage is done, the mining company begins by denying the damage. Then it claims the damage is only temporary. Finally, it insists that it won’t pay for damage unless the home or farm owner agrees not to discuss the settlement. The industry knows that most damage is out of sight and therefore, out of mind. It knows that in another decade or two, it will have exhausted the available coal and will have left the area, taking its trainloads of wealth with it.
Longwall mining is the new mythology. Decades from now, it will be the old horror story. The industry will say, “We used to damage homes and streams, but we don’t do that any more; we have a new technology that is better than the old.”
Don’t believe it.
Each year a gift from the Huplits Trust is used by the Allegheny Group, Sierra Club, to award grants that will protect wildlife and wildlife habitat. This year the Huplits Wildlife Grant Committee awarded eight grants totaling $101,375.
The eight grants will be used to:
* Put a check on damaging Oil & Gas extraction and expand wilderness protection on the Allegheny National Forest.
* Evaluate the damage of long wall mining on stream integrity in SW Pennsylvania.
* Place selection of wind turbine sites on a sounder ecological basis.
* Combat the proposed creation of an electric power line corridor across public lands,
* Protect an additional wildlife area along Slippery Rock Creek;
* And legally challenge a threat to the environmental integrity of Project 70 lands.