The Center for Coalfield Justice held the 10th Annual DRYerson Festival on June 25th at Ryerson Station State Park. The theme of this year’s Festival was: Our Park, Our Streams, Our Future. We were joined by more than 60 long-time members and volunteers from around southwestern Pennsylvania.
This year, we shared the loss of Duke Lake, highlighted the damage caused by longwall mining at the Bailey Mine to streams surrounding the park, and emphasized the predicted harm to streams in and around the park. This includes one of the last fishing locations remaining, North Fork Dunkard Fork, which flows through Ryerson Station State Park.
We want to thank everyone who came out to celebrate Ryerson Station State Park and stood with us in our fight to protect these streams and Park, for present and future generations.
At the event, our Executive Director, Patrick Grenter, spoke about our ongoing fight to protect Ryerson:
Thank you everyone for being here today, and again welcome to the 10th Annual DRYerson Festival. I’d also like to thank our volunteers, particularly our Board members who are here today, Bob East, Ken Yonek, Kim Teplitzky, Nicole Fifer, Chuck Hunnel and especially our musical guest, Tom Breiding, as well as our staffers Veronica Coptis and Sarah Winner and great interns Steve Kelly, Katharine Richter, Chris Thomas and Sarah Grguas. The theme of this year’s DRYerson is “Our Streams, Our Park, Our Future.” What a shame it is that we are forced to defend these things. Our Streams, Our Park, Our Future. What a shame that our elected officials, sworn to uphold our Constitution, seem to forget about Article 1 Section 27, which promises all of us, as well future generations to come, the unalienable right to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment.
What a shame that eleven years ago, longwall mining at the Bailey mine caused the destruction of Duke Lake. Little could people have known then the mishaps, inequities and injustices were just beginning. In case anyone here doesn’t know, eleven years ago the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources were forced to draw down Duke Lake because the dam was damaged beyond repair. Thousands of fish died in the process, and thousands of future memories and experience were taken from a generation of visitors to Ryerson Station State Park.
For years, Consol executives denied the destruction their activities wrought on this region. They fought, scraped, clawed and weaseled out of every semblance of responsible or moral action. The politicians that they have bought and paid for proved a sound investment. Just weeks before we were to go to trial, to finally hold Consol responsible for the destruction of Duke Lake, they got a sweetheart deal, allowing them to avoid all meaningful liability, and even gave the company the right to frack and mine in and around the park. Apparently taking Duke Lake wasn’t enough. Consol executives were just getting started. Next, they wanted to take, Our Streams, Our Park, Our Future.
Thankfully, because of the many generous members and donors of the Center for Coalfield Justice, we have been in a position to fight them. More than two years ago, when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit that allowed for continued longwall mining in and around Ryerson, we sued them to stop it. When we learned more, and saw that DEP was allowing for the destruction of at least ten streams, we fought harder. When we saw that the DEP permitted activities that allowed for the elimination of all fishing opportunities in Ryerson for at least three years, we knew we had to fight even harder. We are fighting for the soul of this park. We are fighting for the future of this park. We are fighting for what is right.
Two years into this lawsuit, we have faced more and more time-wasting harassment and distraction from Consol. We have faced down their feeble attempts to obstruct and delay justice. We have seen that their mining in other areas in this expansion area nearby have already caused problems. You see, just because we’re suing them, doesn’t mean that Consol can’t mine. While we fight them in court, they’re trying to get as much coal as they can. This is literally a race to see how much they can get away with before its time to face what they’ve done. We have already seen flow loss in Polen Run. We’ve already seen bulldozers and backhoes conducting stream restoration, which involves pumping tons of concrete to fill the holes they ripped into the earth underneath our streams. We have seen them characterize these activities as “improving streams”. Consol referred to a crooked creek as having “excess meanders,” and couldn’t seem to understand why it was that we like these streams just they way they are. We don’t need a coal company “improving them” for us.
So, where we are today is headed towards our trial. This will be one of the biggest environmental cases in Pennsylvania this year. We are scheduled for three weeks of trial starting August 10. We will be facing the big money hired guns that Consol has brought on. We will be facing their downtown attorneys. And I know that we will win. We will win because we are on the right side of history. We will win because our community is with us. And we will win because we are fighting for something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than some company’s quarterly profits. We are fighting for our future. Without water, we have no future. We are here for this fight, but we cannot do it without your help. Please, support our work as much as you can, and donate to support our efforts to fight for Our Park, Our Streams, Our Future.
Show your support for DRYerson by making a targeted donation to our Ryerson Campaign here: bit.ly/defendryerson or by mailing a check into the office with Ryerson in the memo.