Observer-Reporter: DRYerson Festival to Highlight Stream Preservation at Ryerson

Iron Bridge Area of Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Iron Bridge Area of Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

By C.R. Nelson, Observer-Reporter

WIND RIDGE – The Center for Coalfield Justice will host its 11th annual DRYerson Festival Saturday as it continues to look toward a new vision for Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County.

This yearly picnic, which will run from 1 to 4 p.m. at Pavilion No. 1, will harken back to the fun families enjoyed at the 1,164-acre state park before Duke Lake was drained in 2005 after undermining near the area damaged the lake’s concrete dam.

The park opened in 1960, with the lake being an integral attraction, CCJ executive director Veronica Coptis said, but now the group is working to save the remaining springs and streams from further damage from longwall mining.

Coptis said the group is raising concerns about Senate Bill 624, which would give coal-mining companies more leeway before undermining streams near the park. She said CCJ’s goal is to demonstrate to elected officials that they will “not let our park be destroyed for private profit anymore.”

“Our community has been coming together for more than 10 years, and it’s becoming clear that we are winning,” Coptis said.

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But why ‘DRYerson?

Poster Created by Emily Simmons

Poster Created by Emily Simmons

For more than two decades, the Center for Coalfield Justice has been involved in the protection of Ryerson Station State Park. We commented on the initial permit for longwall mining under the park, ensured that Consol Energy was held accountable for damaging the dam and destroying Duke Lake back in 2005, and we advocated with the community to protect the park. To this day, we work toward the protection of streams within Ryerson in an effort to preserve the communal and economic opportunities in the park.  

This fight has led CCJ to Harrisburg four times to meet with legislators, to talk with the governor’s staff, and to provide public comments on the status of the permit to longwall mine underneath the park. We’ve been outspoken opponents of bills like SB 624, which would cause further damage to streams in the park. The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor’s staff even visited Ryerson in March and saw the impacts to our streams and park firsthand.

It has also led us to the courtroom, where we challenged the current permit issued in December - a challenge that led to an extraordinary legal victory against Consol Energy.  Since this supersedeas was issued, CCJ has been the topic of various billboard ads and other elements of a smear campaign orchestrated by industry front groups, but we move forward. Why keep moving forward? Within Greene County, there are not many places to recreate, hold events, or spend time in nature - Ryerson is the one place where you can do all three. This is why we hold DRYerson: to celebrate the park, to remember the hard work we have put in, and to come together to move ahead with the future we envision for the park.

 This year, the DRYerson Festival will take place on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.  We will have live music, food, and games for kids and adults, all for free.  We will also have a raffle basket table where you can buy tickets for the chance of winning an item, a registration table for long standing members to check in and new members to join us, and event t-shirts.  We encourage members to bring friends, relatives, and dogs (on a leash, please).  As the day goes on, we’d love to hear from you about why Ryerson is important to you and what you’d like to see happening in the park in the future: because it is a state park, it is our park, and it should reflect our community.  

 For those of you who would like to be more involved in the event, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer.   From now until the festival, we will be seeking out and accepting donations of items for the raffle baskets, so let us know if you have something to donate.  Most help, however, will be needed on the day of the event, from setting everything up to serving food to ensuring we leave behind no mess at the end.  If you are interested in volunteering some time, please email our community organizer, Sarah Martik, at smartik@gmail.com or call 724-229-3550.  Regardless of whether you want to donate time or enjoy the day, be sure to join us for the DRYerson Festival. Land and water have inherent value, and we need to remember to celebrate and protect those values all the time.  

Environmental Groups, Locals Speak Out Against Bill Threatening to Harm PA Streams

CCJ and Sierra Club Press Conference at Capitol (Photo Credit: Tom Torres)

CCJ and Sierra Club Press Conference at Capitol (Photo Credit: Tom Torres)

Harrisburg, PA — The Center for Coalfield Justice with the Sierra Club, Mountain Watershed Association and local residents held a press conference today at the Capitol to oppose SB 624 and demand Pennsylvania senators protect local streams instead of creating more loopholes for the coal industry. The bill, which passed through the Senate Energy and Environmental Resources Committee yesterday, attempts to exempt the coal industry from the PA Clean Streams Law.

“Consol is attempting to legislate away the pending litigation and is attempting to guarantee itself the right to destroy the remaining streams in Ryerson Station State Park,” Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice said. “These streams are important economic and recreational resources for western Greene County. They are the very places my community has left to teach our children how to fish.”

Three years ago, the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) and Sierra Club filed appeals for two permit revisions to Consol’s Bailey Mine stating they violate the Clean Streams Law and Mining Law. A hearing on the appeals was held in August 2016 and a decision from the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) is expected any day now. However, this bill appears to directly target the Center for Coalfield Justice and Sierra Club’s appeals before the EHB. In section 3 of the bill, it states that the act shall retroactively apply to all permits that were the subject of an appeal and heard by the EHB after June 30, 2016.

“It’s clear that Consol will stop at nothing to win an appeal that is against the law, against the environment and against labor just to prove a point,” Joanne Kilgour, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter said. “Consol should not be allowed to turn our healthy streams into reconstructed drainage ditches.”

"Growing up on the Monongahela River I watched pollution destroy recreational opportunities,” Lois Bower-Bjornson a local PA resident said. “If SB 624 is made into law communities will lose what little they have left."

SB 624 could be voted on in the Senate as early as June 5th.

Post-Gazette: Bill defining coal mining pollution advances in PA Senate

Whitehorn Run in Greene County, PA (Photo Credit: DEP)

Whitehorn Run in Greene County, PA (Photo Credit: DEP)

By Laura Legere by Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — A bill that will make it harder to challenge underground coal mining permits because of their potential to damage streams advanced out of a Senate committee on Monday.

The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would amend the state’s mining law to clarify that planned mining subsidence does not constitute potential pollution under the state Clean Streams Law if it is not predicted to result in permanent damage to waterways.

The Environmental Resources and Energy committee voted 8-4 to advance the measure to the full Senate.

Mr. Scarnati said the bill...

Read full article at Post-Gazette

StateImpact: Senate Advance Controversial Coal Mining Bill

Whitehorn Run, Greene County (Photo Credit: DEP)

Whitehorn Run, Greene County (Photo Credit: DEP)

by Marie Cusack, StateImpact

The state senate has advanced a bill that could upend an ongoing legal challenge by two environmental groups seeking to restrict coal mining beneath a western Pennsylvania state park.

With the backing of senate GOP leadership, SB 624 was approved by a committee Monday in an 8-4 party line vote. The measure takes aim at a pending court case, which was first brought three years ago by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Pennsylvania Sierra Club. The two environmental groups are challenging Consol Energy’s 3,000-acre Bailey Mine extension. They argue it would damage 14 streams in and around Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park.

Read full article at StateImpact

Living with the Effects of Shale Gas Extraction

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

Living near a shale gas extraction site, compression station, or pipeline comes with some expected and some potentially unexpected effects of which all residents in the area should be aware.  The release of chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere is expected; however, an event like a well fire or pipe leak is not something you can predict.  The most important thing for residents to do is to be proactive:  document your health on a registry, and be prepared to respond in case of an acute disaster.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) has an online registry where residents can document their health symptoms by filling out a questionnaire. The benefit of regularly updating your information on the registry is that researchers can use this data to find correlations between shale gas activity and health issues.  Knowing your symptoms and what causes them can help you add the right air filtration systems to your home and know what you should tell your doctor should you ever need treatment.  This information can also then be used when talking to legislators about why we need strong regulations on this industry.

In addition to being vigilant about your health, you should also make sure that you are prepared to respond in case of a disaster.  The EHP recommends that you contact your local volunteer emergency coordinator to get his or her recommendations for how to prepare an emergency kit.  Bottled water is important for any emergency situation; pliers are useful for turning off your gas valve to stop gas from flowing into your house; a whistle can be used to help first responders know where you are in the event that you are trapped.  Some disasters may require that you evacuate your home, and knowing your evacuation route can help all residents of your community get to safety quickly.

Thinking about these issues is not pleasant for anyone – when I listened to this presentation, I started to panic a bit myself – but being aware and prepared is the reality of being a resident of the shale fields, and it will help you if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.  

Observer-Reporter: Consol agrees not to mine near Kent Run in Ryerson Station

Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

by Mike Jones, Observer-Reporter

Consol Energy has agreed not to mine within 100 feet of Kent Run near Ryerson Station in order to retain permission to mine beneath the state park in Greene County, according to an agreement the company reached with state regulators last month.

The agreement between Consol and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was signed April 26 and released Wednesday...

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Observer-Reporter: UMWA president arrested at Consol Energy rally

CCJ Board Member Tom Breiding playing at Rally. Photo Credit: United Mine Workers

CCJ Board Member Tom Breiding playing at Rally. Photo Credit: United Mine Workers

by Michael Bradwell with Observer-Reporter

The president of the United Mine Workers of America union was arrested for trespassing on Consol Energy property in Southpointe following a protest over the company’s handling of union retirees’ health-care benefits.

About 1,500 UMWA members descended on Consol’s headquarters in Southpointe Wednesday morning to protest what the union said are recent attempts by the energy company to reduce health-care benefits for its union retirees and threaten potential funding for the pensions of thousands of retired coal miners and widows.

Cecil Roberts was arrested by Cecil Township police....

Read the full story at Observer-Reporter

DCNR and Consol reach an agreement on stream remediation within Ryerson Station State Park

Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

On April 25, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (“DCNR”) and Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, LLC (“Consol”) entered into an agreement concerning access for post-mining stream mitigation in Ryerson Station State Park. A copy of the agreement between DCNR and Consol is available here.

The DEP has not authorized longwall mining beneath Polen Run and Kent Run in the 4L and 5L panels and has not authorized post-mining stream mitigation in those portions of Polen Run and Kent Run, which are located within Ryerson Station State Park. Consol has submitted a permit revision application to DEP and we anticipate that the application will be noticed for public comment in the coming weeks.