Bailey Mine Permitting Update

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) issued Permit Revision No. 209 to Coal Mining Activity Permit 30841316. Permit Revision No. 209 authorizes Consol to conduct longwall mining in the 6L – 8L panels of the Bailey Mine.  

There has been some confusion about whether Permit Revision No. 209 authorizes longwall mining beneath Polen Run in the 4L and 5L panels of the Bailey Mine. It does not. Instead, it authorizes longwall mining in three panels (6L-8L) that are located in an area south-east of Ryerson Station State Park.   

Consol is currently longwall mining in the 5L panel of the Bailey Mine. In January we successfully petitioned for a supersedeas that prohibited Consol from conducting longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the 3L panel, located within the park, while the appeal is pending. Then, in August, CCJ and Sierra Club received a favorable decision in their consolidated appeal of Permit Revision Nos. 180 and 189.

Due to this decision, Consol had to amend their pending permit for authorization to mine under Polen run, which is within the state park, for the 4L and 5L panels. This permit is still pending and we are prepared to take any action to protect the stream.

Win a football signed by Andy Russell!

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Andy Russell was a Pittsburgh Steelers MVP in 1971 as a linebacker for the original Steel Curtain defense. He played in seven Pro Bowls and has two Super Bowl rings. You could try to outbid other collectors and fans for signed merchandise on eBay, or.... you can try to win a signed football from CCJ!

Each ticket costs $10 and has 4 chances to win. The winning number will be based on the 1st 3-digit number drawn on the 7pm PA Pick 3 Lottery on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

To purchase tickets, you can call or stop by the office, OR you can purchase online. When the drawing is completed, we will deliver the football to you either in person or via mail. For any questions or concerns, please contact Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550x1.

FOR TICKETS PURCHASED ONLINE: CCJ will fill in a ticket stub for you and send you pictures of your stub(s) via email or text.

Texas Roadhouse Fundraiser

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Everyone knows the real reason you go to Texas Roadhouse: the bread and butter! You eat so much bread before dinner that you're no longer hungry when your entree arrives because you know you can't take the bread home with you - until now. Protectors of Mingo are selling dozens of either frozen or baked Texas Roadhouse rolls, butter, and Texas Roadhouse giftcards. Bring some tasty to your holidays this year while helping POM raise funds to continue to fight RAMACO's proposed Ram. 1 Mine.

Rolls - $5/dozen, either frozen or baked

Butter - $4/pint

Gift cards - $10 increment only

HOW TO ORDER: 1) See a POM member to place your order in person and arrange pickup; 2) Order online, pick up your order at the CCJ Holiday Party on December 19 (6:00-8:00pm)

ORDER PICKUP: CCJ Office - 184 S. Main Street, Washington PA 15301

*POM and CCJ will do our best to make arrangements for people who cannot get to the office to pick up orders on December 19. You must call the office if you need alternative arrangements. ALL ORDERS MUSTbe picked up before Friday, December 22 when CCJ's office is closed for the holidays.*

**POM and CCJ will not be able to deliver all orders placed online. If you place an order online, you will be responsible for picking up your bread and butter unless other arrangements have been made.**

Please call or email Sarah Martik at 724-229-3550x1 or smartik@coalfieldjustice.org for more information or with questions.

 

The Protectors of Mingo is a grassroots citizens group working to preserve the safety of our children and standard of life in our quiet communities, securing a healthy environment for our families.

Four years ago, we learned that Ram Mining LLC (RAMACO) is hoping to open a new mine in Nottingham and Peters Townships in Washington Co. that will extract about 7.8 million tons of coal. The permit for this mine is under review in the Department of Environmental Protection, and we have been working to prevent the permit from being issued since its application due to our concerns for public safety, public health, and residents' constitutional rights to a peaceful, clean environment.

RAMACO is expecting a decision on this permit by the end of 2017, and we need to be prepared to intervene in whatever way possible to ensure that our community is protected and preserved. Help us by attending our monthly meetings, putting a sign in your yard, or donating

The People vs. Oil and Natural Gas Summit - Registration is open!

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Join CCJ at the The People vs. Oil and Natural Gas Summit from Friday, November 17 - Monday, November 20 at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh.  This Summit is an opportunity for communities who are fighting back against fossil fuels to gather to share stories, strategies, and skills, as well as to collaborate with other communities who are doing the same kinds of work across the country. Most exciting, on Monday we will taking action at energy companies’ headquarters to make it clear we will not stop fighting for our homes, water, and air.

Participants are able to choose from a variety of presentations and panels throughout the weekend so that they are able to tailor their participation to address the needs of their communities.  Overall, the training tracks will be split into four informative and fun tracks: Advocacy and technical legal skills; political campaigning; action/arts workshopping; and organizing/recruitment training.

If you are a frontline or grassroots activist and you are ready to do more, this summit is designed for you. There are generous scholarships available that include registration, meals, travel, and lodging - no one will be turned away from this summit based on ability to pay.

Click here to register!

Emerging leaders in the fight against the climate crisis

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Fourteen hundred concerned community members came to Pittsburgh from October 17-19 for the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps training at the David L Lawrence Convention Center. Throughout the three days, participants heard from scientists and other experts about the current science on climate change and the crisis that will happen if we don’t act now. CCJ staff members Veronica Coptis and Sarah Martik and board member Lois Bower-Bjornson joined hundreds of others specifically from the Pittsburgh region to learn more about the reality of our environment and ways to create progress.

In the grand debate on climate change, it can be easy to think of the problem as a massive global one, and not to see how it will affect our communities in a very real way. In terms of weather and the environment, Greene and Washington Counties are at a higher risk for flooding and stronger heat waves. In terms of public health, rising temperatures mean that ticks are becoming a greater issue, and the risk of contracting Lyme disease is greater.  The worsening flooding would put more stress on our sewage and water systems.  Our communities’ local economies are also directly impacted by the global shift to address the climate crisis and shift to cleaner energy sources. We collectively need to decide to enact policies that would prevent these kinds of problems from worsening and to diversify our economy. We also need to plan to deal with the consequences of inaction; however, during our current political times we cannot rely on our government.

One of the most important takeaways from the conference is that, while it is a global issue, climate change can be tackled at the local level, and doing so will not only prevent some of those drastic consequences but also help improve communities. It’s easy to think that jobs in manufacturing and maintaining solar panels or wind turbines would be the only source of new jobs in a renewable energy economy, but one of the strongest sectors for job growth will be in retrofitting existing buildings to meet higher standards for energy use and efficiency. These are jobs that will pay for themselves because of the savings on energy expenses over time, but they also are impossible to outsource. In the fossil fuel extraction legacy areas throughout our entire region, there is also the opportunity to create jobs by reclaiming sites that continue to harm our health and environment.

We face real problems, as was thoroughly discussed at the Climate Reality Project training, but we also have real solutions that would both protect the environment and boost the economy. It is up to us to shift the political will in the United States because a world where people have jobs and clean air/water is the best-case scenario for our community, country, and world.

A great party in the park!

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We’d like to extend a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who attended our 3rd Annual Fall Fundraiser: A Party in the Park. This party was an unprecedented success, with 100 people in attendance (and one case of wine depleted within the first half of the night).  Everyone enjoyed a pasta bar and cookie table, apple cider mocktails and adult beverages, and live music and dancing in front of two warm fires. Because of your attendance and support at our silent auction and 50/50 raffle, we were able to meet our fundraising goal for the evening, which will help us as we continue to grow our organization to take on the various challenges facing our communities. We’ve had tremendous successes in the recent past, and we are determined to continue on this path towards a healthy environment and economy for future generations.

We would be remiss not to mention the efforts of our volunteers who strung lights; who assisted with setup, registration, and cleanup; who ran the bar all night and made additional trips to the store for more supplies (really, wine - we’ll remember next year that CCJ supporters like their wine). There is no possible way we could have done this without you.

From Veronica and the Sarahs at CCJ, we hope you had a great time, we thank you for your support, and we hope to see you next year!

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A permitting update on coal mining around Ryerson

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Due to our recent legal win which made streambed lining illegal, Consol was forced to change their stream mitigation plan for proposed longwall mining under Polen Run. In response, on August 25th, Consol amended its pending permit revision seeking authorization for mining under Polen Run for the 4L and 5L panels of the Bailey Mine with a new stream mitigation plan that includes spraying the damaged streambed with a liquid plastic-type material to fill in cracks and attempt to fix predicted flow loss. In addition to being completely untested in streams, this is particularly concerning because the sections of Polen Run above these panels are inside Ryerson Station State Park. 

On September 1st Consol idled their longwall machine in the 4L panel of the Bailey Mine, citing “permit delays,” even though the Department of Environmental Protection only had about a week to review this new and untested proposal. As a result, mine workers were impacted by Consol’s decision to idle the mine. 

There was no justification for Consol to lay off anyone and the permit delay was created by Consol itself. Consol has had an approved permit to conduct mining in this area since 2014, in such a way that Polen Run would be preserved, and it could have followed that plan. Instead, they got greedy and tried to change the permit in a way that was more destructive and required less labor, and, therefore, was more profitably to the company. The Environmental Hearing Board ruled in August that the stream destruction predicted as a result of longwall mining beneath the upstream portion of Polen Run and the required restoration method were illegal. The DEP had only about a week to review the latest, unproven mitigation proposal from Consol so it is unfair and inaccurate to blame them for a so-called “delay.” Furthermore, this mitigation plan has never been done on streams and Consol is asking the state to allow them to experiment with an untested mitigation tactic in Greene County’s only state park. 

If Consol had followed their approved mining plan all along, there would be no need for layoffs or  last-minute adjustments and safety concerns. They could have also adjusted their operations to allow DEP a reasonable amount of time to review a completely novel proposal; instead, they did the opposite: they accelerated their pace of mining in a shameful attempt to force the state’s hand by exploiting  workers to line their pockets. The fact that Consol’s longwall machine was idled, and their impact to workers, is completely of their own doing.

The DEP is still reviewing Consol’s application for  the permit authorization to mine under Polen Run and Consol is moving the longwall machine from the 4L to the 5L panel. (A permit revision was issued on September 15th for the 5L panel that essentially fixed a mistake in the width of the panel.) The fact that DEP is conducting a thorough review of this permit — even under intense pressure from Consol — is the right thing to do and a result of our work to protect these streams and a positive step for the community. Consol has seemingly grown accustomed to getting its way by threatening to sue DEP simply for doing its job. Thankfully, we are closing the gap by using our own legal expertise to fight for our rights in the permitting process. We will continue the fight to protect the remaining streams in and around Ryerson Station State Park until there is no longer a threat of losing our streams for Consol’s private profits. 

 

CCJ in Daisytown, PA for lease-reading training

Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

On Tuesday, September 19, CCJ held a workshop on the basics of unconventional oil and gas drilling leases in Daisytown, PA. Ryan Hamilton (Hamilton Law LLC) gave a presentation and answered community members’ questions like “How do I know who owns the mineral rights below my property?” and “If I am approached about leasing my land, but I don’t want to, will they be able to drill anyway?”

It’s important to remember that everything in the stock lease you are presented is negotiable. You can add an addendum and strike out details that are not in the best interest of you, your family, or your land. However, legalese can be confusing, and leases are primarily written to benefit the company, not the landowner. We advise that you contact an attorney to ensure that everything is in order.

If you have questions about unconventional oil and gas leases, or about activity in your area, please reach out to CCJ at any time by calling 724-229-3550 or emailing smartik@coalfieldjustice.org.

If you would like to reach Ryan Hamilton, please call 412-567-9799 or email ryan@hamiltonlawllc.com.

Become a Community Advocate Training Series

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Have you been concerned about your rights being taken away and struggled to figure out how to get involved? The Center for Coalfield Justice is hosting a FREE training series that will teach you how to share your story, organize more people into a community action group, and implement a campaign to defend our environmental and human rights.  

The training series will be held the last four Monday nights in October from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the CCJ office (184 S Main St. Washington, PA 15301). We will provide all training materials and refreshments for the evening. Register for all the trainings or for specific sessions by following this link.

Session #1 -- Monday, October 9 -- Telling Your Story

Learn important public speaking skills and explore how your own personal life relates to the issue around which you want to organize.

Session #2 -- Monday, October 16 -- Creating a Community Group and Campaign Planning

Learn how to develop a campaign by finding others who care about the same issue and taking actions together.

Session #3 -- Monday, October 23 -- Talking with Media and Decision Makers

Learn useful tactics when speaking to members of the media and decision makers and how to make your story compelling to a specific audience.

Session #4 -- Monday, October 30 -- Funding Your Group

Learn about grassroots and organizational funding options to help support your group’s efforts.

These trainings are just the start of developing your skills to create change in your community. CCJ and our allies will continue to provide support after you attend the trainings and begin using your skills to protect our rights.

Register Below: 

The Environmental Hearing Board Rules In Favor of CCJ and Sierra Club

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On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) unanimously delivered a major victory to Center for Coalfield Justice, Sierra Club and their members in a consolidated appeal of two longwall mining permits for the Bailey Coal Mine: Permit Revision No. 180 and Permit Revision No. 189. The EHB’s decision sets important precedent for streams in Pennsylvania that may be impacted by longwall coal mining operations

The Permit Revisions allowed Consol Energy to expand longwall mining operations at the Bailey Mine to an area located to the east of Ryerson Station State Park. Permit Revision No. 180 authorized longwall mining in the 1L through 5L panels, but did not authorize longwall mining beneath Polen Run and Kent Run. Permit Revision No. 189 authorized longwall mining beneath Polen Run in the 1L and 2L panels of the Bailey Lower East Expansion. It also authorized post-mining stream channel lining to address predicted subsidence-induced flow loss.

The Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and Consol predicted that longwall mining would cause flow loss and pooling in certain overlying streams.The DEP determined that the extent and severity of the predicted subsidence-induced stream impacts would require post-mining stream remediation including streambed lining, streambed grouting, and gate cutting.  We presented our case before the EHB in August 2016.

While waiting for a final decision from the Judges, Senators Scarnati and Yaw introduced SB 624 in an attempt to retroactively defeat our legal arguments. SB 624 was amended in the House with support from the DEP. The amended version of SB 624 is now known as Act 32 of 2017. These amendments to the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act (“Mine Subsidence Act”)  were a transparent attempt to substitute the Legislature’s judgment for that of the EHB’s in the Consolidated Appeal.

However, the EHB refused to apply Act 32 of 2017 to the Consolidated Appeal. The Judges agreed that Act 32 constitutes a change to the approved Pennsylvania Mining Program and requires approval from the Federal Office of Surface Mining (“OSM”). Without OSM approval, the amendments to the Mine Subsidence Act are not effective. Just as importantly, the EHB explained that it would have reached the same conclusion even if Act 32 had applied. As a result, the EHB’s decision cannot be invalidated should OSM approve the amendments in the future.

In the 71-page opinion, the EHB ruled in favor of CCJ and Sierra Club and held that issuance of Permit Revision No. 189 was in violation of the Clean Streams Law, the Mine Subsidence Act and associated regulations. The EHB explained:

"When the Department anticipates that the impacts from longwall mining are going to be so extensive that the only way to “fix” the anticipated damage to the stream is to essentially destroy the existing stream channel and streambanks and rebuild it from scratch, the Department’s decision to issue Permit Revision No. 189 is unreasonable and contrary to the law.” 

In addition, the EHB found that the Department’s action granting Permit Revision No. 189 violated Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Board acknowledged that Clean Streams Law, the Mine Subsidence Act and their regulations are relevant to the protection of public natural resources like the streams within and around Ryerson Station State Park. The Board also recognized that compliance with a state statute does not always equate to compliance with Article I, Section 27. Department actions taken under the authority of a statute must still be measured against the constitutional requirements of Article I, Section 27. However, in this case, no further analysis was required.

“At a minimum, a Department permitting action that is not lawful under the statutes and regulation in place to protect waters of the Commonwealth, cannot be said to meet the Department’s trustee responsibility under Article I, Section 27 and is clearly a state action taken contrary to the rights of citizens to pure water.”

While this decision did not prevent harm to Polen Run above that section of the mine, it sets an important precedent for the future. The immediate impact is to preclude the Department from authorizing longwall mining beneath the portion of Polen Run that flows through Ryerson Station State Park.

The DEP already determined that other, more minor forms of post-mining stream remediation would not restore the stream and that stream channel lining would be necessary. Since it is not reasonable, lawful or constitutional “to allow longwall mining to take place when the Department determines prior to issuing the permit that the impacts to a stream will rise to a level that the necessary restoration will require this level of disruption to the existing stream,” the DEP cannot approve Consol’s pending application to longwall mine beneath Polen Run in the 4L and 5L panels.

Over three years ago, in April 2014, Consol voluntarily revised its mining plan and represented to the DEP that it could and would conduct development mining (not longwall mining) beneath Polen Run in the 4L and 5L panels, which is located within Ryerson Station State Park. Earlier this year, Consol submitted an application to instead longwall mine beneath this portion of the stream. Should the DEP deny Consol’s pending application, Consol could continue to operate in accordance with their mining plan that was approved in 2014. As a result, denial of its application to longwall mine beneath Polen Run within the Park would not justify a reduction in workforce.

The EHB upheld the DEP’s issuance of Permit Revision No. 180 citing insufficient evidence to conclude that the predicted and observed impacts caused or would cause “impermissible impairment” or “unreasonable degradation” of the streams within the permit area. Still, the EHB provided valuable clarification about the protections afforded to Pennsylvania streams that may be impacted by longwall coal mining.

For over a decade, the DEP has focused almost exclusively on the adequacy of post-mining mitigation plans rather than protecting streams from significant mining impacts.  Instead the DEP relied upon post-mining stream mitigation plans to approve and excuse predicted mining damage to streams in advance. We argued that this emphasis on post-mining mitigation plans and monitoring requirements misses the point. The EHB largely agreed.

More specifically, we argued that the law allows for some amount of environmental impact because what is important is not that absolutely no environmental impact occurs, but that the impact does not impair the stream’s protected uses (e.g. aquatic life). In other words, a company can mine and in doing so remove some flow from a stream so long as it does not remove so much flow that the stream no longer supports aquatic life. The EHB agreed that

“The fundamental question in this case is whether the impacts from subsidence anticipated from and caused by Consol’s longwall mining in the [Bailey Lower East Expansion] will impair or have impaired the streams in the area. Impairment clearly violates the Clean Streams Law and its regulations and if the Department determined that longwall mining will impair the streams in the [Bailey Lower East Expansion], it should deny the permit revisions. It also violated the Mine Subsidence Act and its regulations.”

Consistent with this impairment framework, the EHB acknowledged the mining-induced impacts observed in undermined streams at the Bailey Lower East Expansion and discussed the use of post-mining streambed grouting to address flow loss and the use of gate cutting to mitigate subsidence-induced pooling. With respect to gate cutting, the EHB expressed concern “because the streambed is excavated in places to lower the stream gradient and re-establish flow. Extensive excavation of the streambed can certainly impact a stream and impair its uses because of the impact it will have on the organisms in the stream.” This means the DEP must consider the scope and duration of post-mining mitigation work. A promise to perform repairs may not be enough if stream uses will be impaired.   

Although the EHB was not convinced that the streams under which Permit Revision No. 180 authorized mining were likely to or did suffer impermissible impairment, the EHB recognized that

“Even this level of impact, which necessitates the implementation of minor forms of stream mitigation, could result in stream impairment if the time or amount of work involved extended beyond what was demonstrated in this case.”

While there is still work to be done, the Board’s opinion sets forth important guidance for evaluating longwall mining applications in the future and provides stronger protection for Pennsylvania streams.