Environmental Justice

CCJ is at the Jacktown Fair all this week!

CCJ Community Organizer Heaven Sensky

CCJ Community Organizer Heaven Sensky

In an effort to reach as many people as possible to discuss Economic Justice for Greene County, The Center for Coalfield Justice will be present at both fairs in the county as well as Rain Day.

The Legendary Jacktown Fair kicked off this past Tuesday, July 16th in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania. Attendance to the fair is free, and folks from near and far come to experience the small town tradition that is the Jacktown Fair. That said, CCJ has been participating in the fair with a tabling space in one of several buildings onsite. 

Fair attendees are prompted with one question from CCJ- "What is your hope for Greene County?" CCJ's booth features a trifold board displaying the plethora of "hopes" folks have for their community. In conversing about our hopes for Greene, we have been discussing the 10 year Comprehensive Planning Process that the County Commissioners are currently presiding over. We have been informing as many people as possible that the public comment period should be opening over the course of the next week, and that their hopes for Greene are valid... and worth sharing. 

We are also having fun engaging folks at the fair with our original Kerplunk game, where participants play each other in "holding up the pillars of their community" through a series of scenarios that are on par with the challenges of living in a community that teeters on the impacts of the fossil fuel industry. You could win a free CCJ T-shirt or a $25 gift card! 

The people at Jacktown have been kind and engaged in the work that we are doing, and we are eager to make ourselves available to the community beyond economic justice, including how we may be able to help individual community members to navigate the effects of the fossil fuel industry in their personal lives. 

We encourage YOU to stop by the Jacktown Fair to see us from today through Saturday, July 20th. You won't regret it- and afterall.. "You can't die happy ‘til you've been" to the Jacktown Fair!

For more information about CCJ’s Economic Justice Campaign, to make suggestions, or for volunteer opportunities, contact Heaven Lee Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 Ext. 103.


Bailey Mine Expansion Recap and CRDA No.7 Reminder

Coal slurry and waste currently filling a Greene County valley

Coal slurry and waste currently filling a Greene County valley

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held an informal public conference last Tuesday July 2 concerning the Consol Bailey Mine longwall expansion. In Richhill and Aleppo Townships, 2,510 acres will be longwall mined. According to the operator, there are no proposed stream impacts that will require stream mitigation. Few people attended due to the 1-3 p.m. meeting time on a Tuesday, but we collected useful information concerning the expansion if you are concerned or have questions.  

Also, as a reminder, there is an upcoming public hearing for the pending Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) No. 7 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water permit. It will take place Wednesday, July 17, 2019 from 1-3 P.M. at the Morris Township Community Center located at 1713 Browns Creek Road, Graysville, PA 15337. Consol Energy is seeking the permit to fill in another valley that will impact 900 acres and fill small headwater streams that are valuable components of downstream ecosystems. The proposed discharges associated with this valley fill further threaten those ecosystems.  The Center for Coalfield Justice will be preparing a technical review and comments and can help residents with providing  their comments to DEP as well.  

If you have any questions, comments, or need help preparing comments please contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 extension 104.  


Why is equity important to discussions of climate change?

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This contribution to our What’s on your mind? blog was written by our Outreach Coordinator Lisa DePaoli, who has studied humans and ecology for quite a long time and earned her Ph.D. in ecological anthropology:

The ways that humans are being impacted by climate change include extreme weather events such as wildfires and flooding, stresses to food-producing systems, the spread of infectious diseases, and negative impacts on biodiversity and wildlife, security, migration, and public goods such as water. In short, climate change impacts people’s health, livelihoods, and homes and other forms of property.  

Furthermore, certain people are disproportionately affected by climate change, including low-income and minority populations and other vulnerable people who are at greater risk due to age, discrimination, health, and/or location. They may have less ability to move about, pay for damages, and rebound after setbacks. Communities of color and low-income communities face an increased vulnerability because of the compounded stresses of ongoing heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and mental health stress.

People who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also those who are least responsible for causing it (for example, according to a study by Oxfam, the poorest 50 percent — about 3.5 billion people — contribute only 10 percent, while the richest 10 percent of people produce half of the planet’s individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions). Changes in weather patterns, sea level rise, and other impacts further exacerbate existing inequities. Therefore, we must integrate questions of justice in debates about the environment. Focusing on only one part of the problem, such as “jobs,” is like treating the symptom and ignoring the cause of this unequal effect (the underlying socio-economic factors of disadvantaged populations). Actions to address climate impacts and to reduce emissions should be considered in conjunction with broader equity issues involving livelihoods and a living wage, health, food security, and energy access. The wellbeing of people and communities must be at the core of climate action.

There is a lot of discussion of possible ways to address the problem of climate change. Unfortunately, many of the ideas that have been brought forward are top-down or trickle-down in approach (e.g., placing a tax on fossil fuels). With this approach, decisions are made by a few people in authority rather than by the people who are affected by those decisions, and solutions are framed by actions and policies that are initiated at the highest levels of government. However, it has been proven over and over again that top-down and trickle-down solutions do not work. This is especially true for systems-level problems like climate change, which involves the triple bottom line of sustainability: social and cultural factors, ecology/environment, and economics. We have to consider the effects of our actions, technologies, and livelihoods on the health of both people and the environment on which we depend.

Climate action and equity issues are integrally linked and can be mutually supportive. We need to ensure fair transitions for our workers, diversify our economy, and give power to frontline communities. Meaningful change will take an active and inclusive social movement, which will accelerate momentum for climate action. 


Public Hearing for Coal Refuse Disposal Area No. 7 Water Permit

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Join the Center for Coalfield Justice at the Public Hearing for the pending Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) No. 7 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water permit.  It will take place Wednesday, July 17, 2019 from 1-3 P.M. at the Morris Township Community Center located at 1713 Browns Creek Road, Graysville, PA 15337.  

Another beautiful and lush valley will be scoured and then filled in with toxic coal waste.  Consol Energy is seeking another permit to fill in an additional valley that will impact 900 acres and fill small headwater streams that are valuable components of downstream ecosystems.  The proposed discharges associated with this valley fill further threaten those ecosystems.

Come to the meeting and provide your comments and concerns to PA Department of Environmental Protection officials.  Help us stop coal waste from destroying our valleys, streams and ecosystems. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Nick Hood at nick@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext. 104.  


Bailey Mine Expansion Public Conference

There is a pending revision for Bailey Mine that will add 2,510 acres of existing underground permit area and underground subsidence control plan area from development mining to longwall mining.  We encourage you to attend the July 2, 2019 informal public conference held by the PA Department of Environmental Protection from 1-3 P.M. at Ryerson Station State Park Visitor Center located at 361 Bristoria Road, Wind Ridge, PA 15380.  Department representatives will be available to receive written and verbal testimony regarding the permit. 

The proposed revision is in Richhill & Aleppo Townships, Greene County. Below is a picture of a map that we know is challenging to read, so please call the office to see if you are within the permit boundary: 

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The proposed revision also requests approval to perform minor types of stream restoration as may be necessary for streams located within the proposed revision.  Long Run, Blacks Creek, South Fork Dunkard Fork and numerous other Unnamed Tributaries are within the subsidence control area. Please attend this public meeting to ensure the protection of your property, water supplies, and the health of these streams and our drinking water.  If you have any questions or comments or if you need help creating your written or verbal testimony regarding this permit, please contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext. 104.  

Thanks for a Great DRYerson Festival!

On Saturday, June 22nd, the staff of the Center for Coalfield Justice held its 13th Annual DRYerson Festival at Ryerson Station State Park. About 100 community members attended the festival and enjoyed the park, the beautiful afternoon, conversation and community, food, door prizes, snow cones and cotton candy, and great music from Bree Otto! We enjoyed seeing each and every one of you! Thank you for coming out! 

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The date of this DRYerson Festival marked the 25th anniversary of when Act 54 was passed. For 25 days leading up to the festival, we posted a fact each day on Facebook relating to Act 54. This Act was intended to protect water resources and structures against mine subsidence damage; extend the obligation of coal companies to pay for the damage they cause to homes, land, and businesses; and to enforce greater transparency regarding the impacts of mining. Under Act 54, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must compile data and give it to a third-party source (researchers at the University of Pittsburgh) who produce a report every five years showing the effects of underground mining on land, structures, and water sources. The most recent report was released in August of 2014, regarding the years from 2008-2013. The report regarding 2013-2018 will be released at the end of August of 2019. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 763, which has been referred to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, would significantly weaken these protections. We are monitoring this bill and others and will share additional updates and send action alerts as needed.

We are also monitoring the streams in Ryerson (Kent Run, Polen Run, and North Fork Dunkard Fork) and are prepared to take any enforcement action if they experience significant damage that is not promptly restored. Two representatives of CCJ also serve on the Re-envision Ryerson Task Forces and have advocated for the state to be more clear about the timeline and process for improvement projects at the Park. There is another task force meeting scheduled for August and we will share an update afterwards.

Thanks to all of our members and supporters, who help us to continue the work that we do for environmental justice for our communities, and thank you to all of our volunteers for the hard work. We’ll look forward to doing this again next year!

CCJ Organizer Attends Frontline Oil and Gas Summit led by Indigenous Leaders

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The Frontline Oil and Gas Summit took place May 16th through the 18th in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The conference was held in the epicenter of oil and gas development in the battleground state of Oklahoma, only miles from ConocoPhillips 66 massive refinery, and surrounded by fracking operations as far as the eye could see. The conference was led by an Indigenous Ponca Nation elder, Casey Camp-Horinek.

The summit honored the idea that “Environmental Justice means always standing with frontline communities most impacted—and recognizing that the center of the storm is often where innovation and courage meet to propel our movements forward.  We neglect organizing in “sacrifice communities” to the detriment of our movement for meaningful change.”

Casey is a tribal leader within the Ponca Nation, in addition to a movement leader for environmental justice across the entire world. The conference welcomed 160 organizers and activists, 75% of which were living on the frontlines of oil and gas development, including CCJ Organizer Heaven Sensky. Participants spent three days sharing their personal stories with one another and building solidarity across oil and gas frontlines all across the United States, including Alaska. Over the sharing of meals and traditional Ponca ceremonies, participants gained immense power by coming together in support of one another’s work across their widespread places of home.

Casey brought together her immediate and extended family to provide meals and comfort for the guests of the Ponca Nation, who got to share much needed joy from several of her grandchildren as they shared blessed water and laughter with all in attendance.

On the last day of the conference, the Ponca Nation led the summit in a march past the ConocoPhillips 66 refinery to a billboard newly erected by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) foundation. The billboard is part of a larger effort to improve policy and increase awareness around the staggering epidemic that is the murder and trafficking of indigenous women across the United States. The MMIW works in Ponca specifically because the presence of work “man camps” in places of high oil and gas activity is a direct threat to the safety and well being of indigenous women.

As the march passed the refinery, Casey’s son, Mikasi, shared with all of those who participated that their community is ravaged with childhood cancers and increased asthma. Given its closeness to the refinery, specifically within 12 miles, the soil on their entire reservation is legally considered contaminated and unsafe to farm and eat from.

What is happening to the native Ponca Nation of Oklahoma as a result of oil and gas development resonates directly with the multifaceted issues surrounding oil and gas development  in the coalfields of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

For more information about the conference, visit https://frontlineoilandgas.org

To learn how to support the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Organization, visit https://mmiwusa.org

For any questions or to learn more about supporting others in their fight to protect their communities, you can email Heaven at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org



Request DEP Hold Public Meeting for Proposed Coal Refuse Disposal Area (Valley Fill)

Consol Energy currently operates six Coal Refuse Disposal Areas or better described as toxic valley fills. They have begun construction and waste disposal in a seventh valley fill destroying a beautiful and lush valley in Greene County. Now they are seeking another permit to fill in another valley that will impact 900 acres and fill small headwater streams that are valuable components of downstream ecosystems.The proposed discharges associated with this valley fill further threaten those ecosystems

This video shows one of these valleys fills side by side with footage before construction and after.

The permit under review is currently open for public comments and request for a public hearing. Take action below to request a public meeting and voice your questions and concerns to the DEP




Petrochemical Disasters - Present and Future

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A massive fire at an Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) petrochemical plant in Deer Park, Texas took four days to extinguish but is still causing major health and environmental concerns. Tanks containing naphtha, xylene, and pygas caught fire, and air monitoring detected benzene, toluene, other VOCs and particulate matter in the air for a wide radius. (For more detailed coverage of the timeline, chemicals, etc, see this statement released by our allies at Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.) On March 27, 2019, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a warning not to eat fish caught in the Houston Ship Channel, a warning that was echoed by the EPA. Amid the crisis, ITC encouraged residents to submit any claims related to the incident to them; however, in the claims submission process, they included some fine print that stated once payment of a claim had been made, the claimant waived his/her right to sue. In the span of a week, residents of Deer Park and the surrounding areas were bombarded with crucial, and often conflicting, information, which can be exhausting in and of itself.

Watching this unfold via the news in Pennsylvania, it’s easy to watch and think “those poor people,” but also to have a disconnected view because we “don’t know them.” They’re not our neighbors. Texas isn’t culturally the same as Appalachia or Pittsburgh. We may have never even been to the state. But we do know the people who were impacted. They are people who have been impacted by extreme energy extraction, production, and use. They are people whose government is influenced by industry money. They are people who every day live with industry in their backyards, and who are far outmatched dollar-for-dollar by companies. They are people who want clean air and clean water - and more, they want to be able to trust when officials tell them that their air and water are “safe.”

In Appalachia, a massive petrochemical buildout is underway, a buildout meant to protect corporations from the climate change-related risks their infrastructure in the Gulf faces and to help gas and oil companies to hedge against the competition from renewables. This buildout is designed to produce polyethylene pellets that can then be used in plastics manufacturing - when we already have a crisis of plastics pollution. The fracking boom has already been changing our landscape for over a decade: presently, there are 1,696 active unconventional gas (fracking) wells in Washington County and 1,309 in Greene County, but petrochemicals will ensure that even more wells are drilled. The real impacts of this buildout on public health, entire economies, and the environment will be devastating - the petrochemical industry is already devastating many places where people have lived with it for longer than we have even been talking about it. Remember: cheap plastic is not cheap. We cannot breathe or drink money. No matter where we live.

Our allies at Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, a grassroots group, and Earthworks, a national group, have been doing great work to make sure people are informed and safe. Please click the links above to learn more about them and to donate if you can.


Update on Stream Monitoring within Ryerson

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The Center for Coalfield Justice continues to monitor streams within Ryerson Station State Park that were undermined by Consol’s Bailey Lower East Expansion.  

CCJ and Sierra Club filed four appeals before the Environmental Hearing Board related to Consol’s Bailey Lower East Expansion. In January 2017, the Environmental Hearing Board granted our petition for a supersedeas to Protect Kent Run within Ryerson Station Station State Park. As a result, Consol stopped longwall mining in the 3L panel 100 feet short of Kent Run, which is within Ryerson Station State Park. Then, in August 2017, the Environmental Hearing Board unanimously delivered a major victory to CCJ and Sierra Club in their consolidated appeal of Permit Revisions 180 and 189. As a result of that decision, Consol amended its mining plans and did not undermine Kent Run and Polen Run in the 4L panel. The portions of Kent Run and Polen Run that flow above the 4L panel are within Ryerson Station State Park. Unfortunately, in April 2018, the Environmental Hearing Board denied our petition for a supersedeas to prevent Consol from undermining the portion of Polen Run that flows over the 5L panel, which is within Ryerson Station State Park. Consol conducted longwall mining beneath Polen Run in the 5L panel last summer.

CCJ conducted visual monitoring in Polen Run during and after undermining. During those visual inspections, we noticed physical changes to the stream bed and banks. Due to back-to-back record-setting rainfall amounts in PA, as well as stream augmentation performed by Consol, which is the addition of water via another water source, the stream continued to flow.  While CCJ is thankful that the stream did not dry up after mining, we are concerned that flow augmentation was necessary even though there were such high levels of precipitation this past summer and early fall.

In order to more effectively evaluate what kind of impact longwall mining has had on the stream within Ryerson Station State Park, CCJ has partnered with West Liberty University to conduct macroinvertebrate studies and chemical analysis of the streams.  Macroinvertebrates are bugs and insects. If the bugs found are plentiful and diverse, then fish and other stream amphibians can thrive. This kind of biological monitoring will give us a clearer picture of the overall health of the streams post-mining. We have taken these steps to help ensure that mining and post-mining stream remediation within or near the Park is done without destroying these places for community members to fish, hike, picnic and recreate.  

Our annual DRYerson Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22, 2019. Keep an eye out for more details, and we hope to see many of you there!