Mining

Residents in Footprint of Tunnel Ridge Learn Proactive Steps to Protect Homes and Water Supplies

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The Center for Coalfield Justice along with friends from the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association held an “Undermining for Residents Workshop” at the Donegal Township Municipal Building in the evening on Wednesday 14, 2018 and nearly forty (40) people attend.

Tunnel Ridge LLC has been permitted to longwall mine a swath of coal underneath an area of West Alexander, and residents are concerned about what may happen to their water supplies and structures, such as their houses and farm buildings, after being undermined.  CCJ’s staff attorney Sarah Winner helped describe steps for residents to take that can help them protect their water sources and structures on their property.

Community members were engaged, asked questions and talked amongst themselves in hopes to better understand what the potential impacts of being undermined are and how they can ensure that Tunnel Ridge LLC is held responsible for any post-mining damages to their property and water supplies due to ground subsidence, which is the caving in of the ground after the coal seam is removed.    

If you have any questions or would like any information regarding the Tunnel Ridge longwall mine expansion into West Finley and Donegal Townships, please contact Nick at the Center for Coalfield Justice at nick@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 extension 104.  The Buffalo Creek Watershed Association can also be contacted at info@buffalocreekwatershed.org.


Protectors of Mingo Remain Active; Ramaco Permitting Process Continues

The Protectors of Mingo (POM), a community group in Washington County, continue to monitor the ongoing permitting process for the Ram #1 mine being proposed by Ramaco LLC, a mining company predominately based in the midwest. The proposed mine would be in Nottingham and Peters Townships near Mingo Creek County Park.

This campaign has been active for 6 years, with small wins along the way. Township officials met with residents years ago to place a set of restrictions on the mine designed to protect community members, drivers and their passengers through the area, and homeowners. Currently, POM are keeping an eye on developments in the permitting process. The California District Mining Office is considering Ramaco’s permit application and have issued numerous deficiency letters to the company. In response to the latest deficiency, Ramaco is testing to determine whether the old Mathies Mine - where they plan to discharge their wastewater - is capable of handling such a discharge. The results from that test are expected by the end of November 2018, at which point POM may have a better idea of whether a permit will or will not be issued - at this point, it is difficult to judge whether the Department will or will not grant a permit.


POM continues to meet monthly. If you are interested in attending a meeting, or if you want to know more about the campaign, please reach out to Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550x1.

CCJ is Going to DC

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The Center for Coalfield Justice along with partners from the Alliance for Appalachia are planning a trip to DC to advocate for the RECLAIM Act and Black Lung benefits from September 23rd - 26th, and the trip will include meeting with congressional representatives, networking, and fellowship.

Come join us and travel to Washington, DC with our group of frontline residents working for clean water and healthy communities. The Appalachian region has paid a heavy price for coal industry abuse, from degraded land to our people’s health. Our members hold a strong vision of where we’re heading and have clear goals of how we’re going to get there. We see reclamation as a key component to achieving clean water, while also providing an opportunity to boost development and job creation.

A schedule of events will be announced after registration closes.  We can provide scholarships for up to 10 people from Pennsylvania which include lodging, food, and travel. Register for the trip here.

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

Register for Washington PA People's Climate, Jobs, and Justice March

On September 8, thousands of rallies will be held in cities and towns around the globe to demand a world with clean air and energy, healthy, family-sustaining jobs, and thriving communities that work for all of us.

The Center for Coalfield Justice and Washington County United are bringing these issue home in Washington, PA to demand our local officials take action on economic, environmental, and social justice starting at 10 AM downtown in Washington and concluding with a cookout.

Private companies and corrupt politicians have been benefiting off our community's resources and labor for too long. We can have a living wage, sustainable jobs that do not treat working-class families and families of color as disposable, but we need the political will to get there. If you are tired of not having access to quality jobs, education, and a healthy environment join us in the streets to demand action!

We can change the national narrative that the coalfields, small towns, and rural communities are happy with the status quo. Together we can create the change needed in our community.

Register to attend the march and stand up for justice in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Want to help with outreach, making art, or speak at the event contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org.

CCJ Attends Public Hearing to Advocate for No Increased Discharges into Mon. River

In a room full of UMWA members and miners from Contura’s Cumberland mine, the Department of Environmental Protection held a public hearing on the draft NPDES permit no. 033511, which would increase the permitted limits for sulfates and total dissolved solids (TDS) into the Monongahela River outfall 001 near Carmichaels, PA. CCJ Campaign Coordinator, Sarah, Community Organizer, Nick, and board members, Ken and Chuck, attended the event to stand up for common-sense permits.

At issue in this permitting decision is the fact that the Monongahela River was only recently considered to be recovered for sulfates. Now that it is no longer impaired, Cumberland Mine is seeking to increase the sulfates they can discharge into the river, pushing the river to 84% of its assimilative capacity - meaning that it is extremely close to the highest level it could safely take, a level that CCJ finds to be illegal and unreasonable. Unlike permits for new discharges, the mining company is seeking an increase in the level they may discharge, and workers testified at the public hearing that jobs would be on the line in this situation. However, the company is currently operating within the existing permit requirements without the threat of job loss. They also, according to permit documents, built a brand new water treatment facility for this outfall that they have never used in the past, yet they still have been in compliance with their existing permitted limits.

For those of our members and supporters who signed our petition asking the DEP not to authorize this permit, a copy was submitted with over 250 names attached to it. We expect to be contacted with a summary of the public hearing soon, and will keep you informed of any updates on this NPDES permit.

Additional Discharges Possible into Mon. River from Cumberland Mine

The Monongehela River near Carmichaels, PA

The Monongehela River near Carmichaels, PA

The Cumberland Mine is renewing their water discharge permit, and it will increase the amount of sulfate pollution into the Monongahela River, which is a major drinking water source for southwestern Pennsylvania. The discharge is located just a few miles upstream from the Carmichaels Water Authority drinking water intake. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold a public hearing regarding the NPDES Water Quality Permit for the Cumberland Mine Coal Refuse Disposal Facility on August 9th, 2018 at the Greensboro VFD/Church Building, 384 Stoney Hill Road, Greensboro from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.  The nature of the public hearing is to solicit concerns and comments regarding the draft amended NPDES permit for the Cumberland Mine Coal Refuse Disposal Facility.

The Monongahela River is considered to be no longer impaired for sulfates, so the mine is increasing the amount of sulfates they will discharge into the river, without taking into consideration the other mine discharges in that area.

The site has three (3) NPDES outfalls located in Monongahela and Whiteley Townships, Greene County. We encourage you to attend the public hearing where Department representative will be available to receive written and verbal testimony regarding the draft NPDES permit. Testimony will be placed into public record for the draft NPDES permit and considered by Department staff in the review process.

If you have any other questions, concerns or comments please contact Nick at the Center for Coalfield Justice at (724) 229-3550 x4 or by email at nick@coalfieldjustice.org.

Alliance for Appalachia Creates New Teams

View of Smokey Mountains at Highlander Center in Tennessee. 

View of Smokey Mountains at Highlander Center in Tennessee. 

The Center for Coalfield Justice attended the most recent Alliance for Appalachia Steering Committee Meeting, where member groups decided to try a six month trial period that involves a restructuring of the current “teams” with a hope that the new teams are more issue specific and inspiring to those who choose to be apart of them.  Also, plans were started for a trip to DC with the goal of meeting with decision makers and sending a clear message that people in Appalachia want a healthy future, rather than more coal mining.

Previously, only an Econ Team and a Federal Team had existed.  Now, there will be 4 groups; Corporate Accountability Team, Citizen Enforcement Team, New Economy Team, Black Lung Team and an Internal Communications Team, which will have representation from each team. Below are the description of the teams, please contact Nick at nick@coalfieldjustice.org if you want to get engaged in any of the teams.  

The Corporate Accountability Team will focus on planning regional actions to put pressure on corporate targets, especially Jim Justice and Alpha Natural Resources.  

The Citizen Enforcement Team hopes to convene a space for member groups to learn from each other’s work around water monitoring and enforcement, organize trainings, share resources, and contribute data to the Appalachian Citizen Enforcement Database. Also, they plan to share strategies between states on enforcement-related issues such as citizens engagement in bond proceeds, tracking and challenging mine permits, submitting citizen complaints, using the clean water act to enforce the law and more.  

New Economy Team will focus on real solutions/research around building wealth by moving resources to acquire and redistribute land. Research Community Reinvestment Act and Land Trust Connect resources to communities/people trying to purchase land.

Black Lung Team will focus on a DC Action Planning Team around Black Lung Trust Fund that will expire at the end of the year and advocate the renewal of the fund in order to protect former and current mine workers.

Internal Communications Team will keep the connectedness and coordination between teams and increase transparency of the Coordinating Committee work. This Team will be comprised of representatives from each of the new teams who will join a coordinating call monthly.

The new teams were formed with the mission of the Alliance in mind and will continue to move forward the efforts to end mountaintop removal, put a halt to destructive coal technologies, and create a sustainable, just Appalachia.    

After the six month trial period, the Steering Committee and member organizations will assess the progress and vote whether to keep the new structure with more issue-specific teams, or make additional changes.  The DC trip may be upon us before you know it, so stay updated!

Report on Coal Mine Bonding in Central Appalachia

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The Center for Coalfield Justice is a member of the Alliance for Appalachia, which is a regional coalition of grassroots, non-profit organizations with the goals of ending mountaintop removal, putting a halt to destructive coal technologies, and creating a sustainable, just Appalachia.  They recently released a report on the state of surface coal mine bonding in four Central Appalachian states. Bonds are used for ensuring reclamation of mine sites, should a company be unable to finish reclamation. The report details the bonding programs in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and recommends improvements that state and federal agencies should make to better protect communities and the environment.

Check out more information here:

http://theallianceforappalachia.org/report-coal-mining-bonding-central-appalachia/ 

Bailey Mine Litigation Settlement and Commonwealth Court Appeal Update

Kent Run at Ryerson Station State Park. (Photo credit: Sarah Winner)

Kent Run at Ryerson Station State Park. (Photo credit: Sarah Winner)

A Stipulation of Settlement Entered in Permit Revision 204 Litigation

Permit Revision 204 authorized longwall mining beneath Kent Run and Polen Run in the 3L panel of the Bailey East Expansion. In January 2017 we successfully petitioned for a supersedeas that prohibited Consol from conducting longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the 3L panel, located within the park, while the appeal is pending.

As part of Permit Revision 209, the DEP approved a revised mining map submitted by Consol that shows development mining only beneath Kent Run. As a result, on January 5, 2018, we entered into a stipulation of settlement with the DEP and Consol. In the settlement, the parties agreed to quit fighting now and also agreed that we can pick the fight back up again if the DEP approves longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the future.

The settlement agreement recognizes and makes clear that Consol no longer has permission to conduct longwall mining under Kent Run in the 3L panel, which is located within Ryerson Station State Park. It also states that any future authorization of longwall mining would require a permit revision subject to public notice and comment. In other words, if Consol ever wants to return to the 3L panel and longwall mine beneath Kent Run, it will be required to go through the permit application process again.

Any future authorization of longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the 3L panel would be a final DEP action that is appealable to the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB). The agreement preserves our ability to raise any factual and legal issues that we identified in the Permit Revision 204 Appeal, including issues related to post-mining stream mitigation in Kent Run, in an appeal of any future permit revision which reauthorizes longwall mining.

Consol Discontinued its Appeal of EHB Decision on Permit Revision 180 and 189

On August 15, 2017, the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) delivered a major victory to CCJ, Sierra Club and their members in a consolidated appeal of two longwall mining permits for the Bailey Mine: Permit Revision No. 180 and Permit Revision No. 189. Shortly thereafter, Consol appealed the EHB’s decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

On January 9, 2018, Consol discontinued its appeal of the EHB’s decision. That decision, which sets forth important guidance for evaluating longwall mining applications in the future and provides stronger protection for Pennsylvania streams, cannot be overturned.  

Bailey Mine Permitting Update

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) issued Permit Revision No. 209 to Coal Mining Activity Permit 30841316. Permit Revision No. 209 authorizes Consol to conduct longwall mining in the 6L – 8L panels of the Bailey Mine.  

There has been some confusion about whether Permit Revision No. 209 authorizes longwall mining beneath Polen Run in the 4L and 5L panels of the Bailey Mine. It does not. Instead, it authorizes longwall mining in three panels (6L-8L) that are located in an area south-east of Ryerson Station State Park.   

Consol is currently longwall mining in the 5L panel of the Bailey Mine. In January we successfully petitioned for a supersedeas that prohibited Consol from conducting longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the 3L panel, located within the park, while the appeal is pending. Then, in August, CCJ and Sierra Club received a favorable decision in their consolidated appeal of Permit Revision Nos. 180 and 189.

Due to this decision, Consol had to amend their pending permit for authorization to mine under Polen run, which is within the state park, for the 4L and 5L panels. This permit is still pending and we are prepared to take any action to protect the stream.