March Newsletter

Save the Date for the 13th Annual DRYerson Festival!

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Spend the afternoon with the Center for Coalfield Justice and your neighbors and friends  as we celebrate the progress we’ve made in our fight to protect Ryerson Station State Park. The 13th annual DRYerson Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22nd from 1-4 PM at Pavilion 2 in the Park. This year’s celebration will feature live music from Bree Otto (you loved her last year, and so she’s back), games (with prizes), a soaking-wet-sponge toss (all the fun of water balloons with no waste), and other fun surprises! The festival is pet-friendly, and our staff highly encourages you to bring your pooch on a leash (or a cat if your cat will let you put a leash on him/her) to join in on the festivities! Summer classics like hot dogs, pasta salad, and watermelon will be offered throughout the day, but this year we’ll also be serving summertime fun in the form of snow cones and cotton candy. Again this year, in order to speak to our values and support another one of our campaigns, we will limit our use of plastic, so we will have reusable plates, cups, and utensils provided by Our Children Our Earth: Toys, Silks, and Eco-Goods. Worried that you’ll only be able to make it for a brief time? Fear not - we’ll have door prize drawings throughout the Festival for everyone who checks in at the registration table!

Let us know you are coming to event by registering here. Call us at the office (724-229-3550) if you want to volunteer or want to know more about the event! We hope to see all your friendly faces there!


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!


The Pennsylvania Solar Congress

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The Pennsylvania Solar Congress took place on Sunday, February 24th 2019 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. CCJ staff attended the event to help support solar expansion and to learn more about the industry. The event was hosted by Solar United Neighbors at the Community Forge building, a public community space dedicated to create inclusive opportunities for community members. Solar United Neighbors is a tri-state non-profit organization that advocates for access to solar power for individuals. The organization describes themselves as “..a community of people building a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. We help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.”The Pennsylvania chapter of Solar United Neighbors hosted the state-wide congress in February to discuss pressing issues in solar power policy, ways in which individuals can obtain solar power, and ways for attendees to get involved in grassroots organizing for solar growth going forward. The event also offered opportunities for attendees to view a showcase of some electric vehicles, and a presentation on Driving Electric. In addition, the event was sponsored by the solar installer EIS, and Tupelo Honey Teas, who provided tea and food prepared with solar energy.

The event was widely attended, with several people in the space having traveled from the eastern side of the state. Attendees learned the basics of how solar works on a home or small business, and the incentives that are available to Pennsylvanians . This included information about a 30% federal tax credit available before the end of 2019. According to Solar United Neighbors, homeowners can install solar panels for under $8,000 if they can benefit from a tax credit of that magnitude, and by participating in a solar co-op. The event also featured a panel of homeowners, all of whom have installed solar panels on their homes. The panel was able to answer a variety of questions from attendees, such as how solar panels impact roofs, and how cost savings compare across different heating systems and the square footage of homes. . Overall, a key theme of the Pennsylvania Solar Congress was to support PA House bill 531, addressing community solar access in Pennsylvania. Solar United Neighbors explains community solar on their website, saying that it “offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. These projects enable individuals, businesses, or organizations to purchase or lease a “share” in a community solar project. If you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month for the energy produced by your share.” At this time, community solar is outlawed in the state of Pennsylvania. Currently, the organization is working to expand solar co-op opportunities into Washington and Greene counties. A solar co-op, in this case, is an organized group of buyers who pursue installation of solar panels in one order, at a bulk price.

To learn more about the work Solar United Neighbors is doing to expand solar power in our region, click here.

In addition, The Center for Coalfield Justice and Solar United Neighbors will be holding a Solar Festival in Greene County on September 28th, so please be sure to save the date!