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.