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. Longwall mining removes far more coal than the room-and-pillar method and causes intentional surface subsidence. During the period 2003 to 2008, 38,256 acres were newly-undermined in Pennsylvania. But although about half the acreage was mined using the more traditional room-and-post method, it was found that longwall mining was responsible for almost all of the damage:
- 100% of damage to streams
- 95% of land damage
- 94% of damage to homes and other structures
The DEP oversees the longwall mining under the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act (Act 54) of 1994. DEP’s own records illustrate that property owners often experienced extended delays in receiving Act 54-mandated compensation, with one in five incidents taking more than 600 days to resolve.
Other major deficiencies in the DEP’s Act 54-required review include:
- No evaluation of regional and cumulative hydrologic impacts to aquifers.
- No analysis of water quality impacts from mine discharges and streamflow changes.
- No data on impacts to wetlands or Special Protection waters.
In issuing the independent analysis of the DEP’s own review, the Citizens Coal Council contends “that Act 54 is in direct conflict with the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Clean Streams Law, and is calling on the governor-appointed 16-member DEP Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) to take an active role in advising the PA General Assembly on critical and long-overdue legislative amendments to Act 54.”
For a 15-minute video on longwall mining, click HERE.