Harrisburg, PA--Governor Wolf allowed Senate Bill 624 to pass into law today. The bill creates an exemption to an 80-year-old law that protects streams and water supplies and will allow mining companies to predictably damage or pollute streams based on a promise to clean them up later, instead of preventing the damage in the first place. Additionally, a portion of the bill stated that the act would have retroactively applied to permits dating back to October 8, 2005, including those that were subject of a pending appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) brought by the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club.
Introduced by Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25) two weeks after receiving a $5k donation from Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company (Consol), SB 624 was a direct response to a question currently pending before the EHB as to whether Consol can legally mine underneath and around Ryerson Station State Park, and knowingly damage the streams that flow through the area. The new law will now directly impact issues under consideration by the EHB and allow Consol to destroy the remaining streams in the park.
The bill passed the Senate and the House with bipartisan opposition.
In a statement, Veronica Coptis, Executive Director at the Center for Coalfield Justice, Joanne Kilgour, Pennsylvania Chapter Director for the Sierra Club and Sarah Winner, Staff Attorney at the Center for Coalfield Justice said:
“Governor Tom Wolf supported legislation that sacrificed the constitutional rights of his constituents for Consol’s private gain,” Coptis said. “Governor Wolf, you have failed as a progressive leader and allowed an environmental justice community that has already been damaged by corporate greed, to suffer another blow, destroying our already compromised public park and any future economic opportunities.”
“Governor Wolf, you have made it clear where your priorities lie and it’s not with the people, with local communities or with the environment. You have signaled to corporations that they can blatantly disregard the law if they line politician’s pockets,” Kilgour said. “Thank you to the Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle that stood with Greene County and all future communities that will be devastated by this atrocious law - it is a shame that the Governor did not stand with you.”
“We believe the amendments are unconstitutional and we are evaluating all of our options to take action to protect Pennsylvanians’ environmental rights,” Winner said.
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