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Longwall Mining Bill Passes in PA House, Awaits Decision from Gov. Wolf

 Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, June 26, 2017

CONTACT

Veronica Coptis, 724-833-8624, veronica@coalfieldjustice.org

Emily Pomilio, 202-395-3041, emily.pomilio@sierraclub.org

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Bill Threatens to Harm PA Streams and State Park

Harrisburg, PA--The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed SB 624 today, which creates an exemption to an 80-year-old law that protects streams and water supplies. The bill would 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. The version passed by the Senate would have applied retroactively to permits that were the subject of an appeal and heard by the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) after June 30, 2016, an apparent reference to a permit issued to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company (Consol) for the expansion of its Bailey Mine.

This version of the bill was amended to apply retroactively to all permits issued since 2005 meaning it will go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, which will likely take place tomorrow. Governor Wolf, who will receive the bill tomorrow, has said he opposes the measure but has not mentioned whether he plans to veto it. The House vote was 120-77 which is not enough YES votes to override a veto.

Introduced by Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25) two weeks after receiving a $5k donation from Consol, SB 624 is 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 predictably damage the streams that flow through the area.

In a statement, Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice and Tom Schuster, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club said:

“We saw it in the Senate and now we’re seeing it in the House. Protecting campaign contributions is more important than protecting our streams and public lands. If Governor Wolf doesn’t veto this bill, he will send a signal to all fossil fuel companies that corporate needs come before the people’s constitutional rights,” Coptis said. “Thank you to the 15 Republicans who voted with their conscience to oppose SB 624, and stand with coalfield communities’ right to healthy streams.”

“It’s time for Governor Wolf to step up, veto this bill and stop Consol from destroying our public lands. It’s extremely disappointing that so many elected officials are willing to allow destructive mining practices for no reason other than padding corporate profits,” Schuster said. “Public parks and streams should be a constitutional right to all who live in this state, not a privilege to be revoked by a fossil fuel company. Governor Wolf, separate yourself from this corporate greed and veto this egregious bill.”

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Observer-Reporter: DRYerson Festival to Highlight Stream Preservation at Ryerson

 Iron Bridge Area of Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Iron Bridge Area of Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

By C.R. Nelson, Observer-Reporter

WIND RIDGE – The Center for Coalfield Justice will host its 11th annual DRYerson Festival Saturday as it continues to look toward a new vision for Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County.

This yearly picnic, which will run from 1 to 4 p.m. at Pavilion No. 1, will harken back to the fun families enjoyed at the 1,164-acre state park before Duke Lake was drained in 2005 after undermining near the area damaged the lake’s concrete dam.

The park opened in 1960, with the lake being an integral attraction, CCJ executive director Veronica Coptis said, but now the group is working to save the remaining springs and streams from further damage from longwall mining.

Coptis said the group is raising concerns about Senate Bill 624, which would give coal-mining companies more leeway before undermining streams near the park. She said CCJ’s goal is to demonstrate to elected officials that they will “not let our park be destroyed for private profit anymore.”

“Our community has been coming together for more than 10 years, and it’s becoming clear that we are winning,” Coptis said.

Read full article at Observer-Reporter

Post-Gazette: Bill defining coal mining pollution advances in PA Senate

 Whitehorn Run in Greene County, PA (Photo Credit: DEP)

Whitehorn Run in Greene County, PA (Photo Credit: DEP)

By Laura Legere by Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — A bill that will make it harder to challenge underground coal mining permits because of their potential to damage streams advanced out of a Senate committee on Monday.

The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would amend the state’s mining law to clarify that planned mining subsidence does not constitute potential pollution under the state Clean Streams Law if it is not predicted to result in permanent damage to waterways.

The Environmental Resources and Energy committee voted 8-4 to advance the measure to the full Senate.

Mr. Scarnati said the bill...

Read full article at Post-Gazette

StateImpact: Senate Advance Controversial Coal Mining Bill

 Whitehorn Run, Greene County (Photo Credit: DEP)

Whitehorn Run, Greene County (Photo Credit: DEP)

by Marie Cusack, StateImpact

The state senate has advanced a bill that could upend an ongoing legal challenge by two environmental groups seeking to restrict coal mining beneath a western Pennsylvania state park.

With the backing of senate GOP leadership, SB 624 was approved by a committee Monday in an 8-4 party line vote. The measure takes aim at a pending court case, which was first brought three years ago by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Pennsylvania Sierra Club. The two environmental groups are challenging Consol Energy’s 3,000-acre Bailey Mine extension. They argue it would damage 14 streams in and around Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park.

Read full article at StateImpact

Observer-Reporter: Consol agrees not to mine near Kent Run in Ryerson Station

 Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park (Photo Credit: Sarah Winner)

by Mike Jones, Observer-Reporter

Consol Energy has agreed not to mine within 100 feet of Kent Run near Ryerson Station in order to retain permission to mine beneath the state park in Greene County, according to an agreement the company reached with state regulators last month.

The agreement between Consol and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was signed April 26 and released Wednesday...

Read full article at Observer-Reporter

Observer-Reporter: UMWA president arrested at Consol Energy rally

 CCJ Board Member Tom Breiding playing at Rally. Photo Credit: United Mine Workers

CCJ Board Member Tom Breiding playing at Rally. Photo Credit: United Mine Workers

by Michael Bradwell with Observer-Reporter

The president of the United Mine Workers of America union was arrested for trespassing on Consol Energy property in Southpointe following a protest over the company’s handling of union retirees’ health-care benefits.

About 1,500 UMWA members descended on Consol’s headquarters in Southpointe Wednesday morning to protest what the union said are recent attempts by the energy company to reduce health-care benefits for its union retirees and threaten potential funding for the pensions of thousands of retired coal miners and widows.

Cecil Roberts was arrested by Cecil Township police....

Read the full story at Observer-Reporter

Pennsylvanians Respond to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's Visit to Greene County Mine

Following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s visit to a local coal mine, the Center for Coalfield Justice and Sierra Club Beyond Coal hosted a press conference where Pennsylvanians gathered to criticize Pruitt's efforts to put polluter profits ahead of communities health and environment.

Speakers criticized Administrator Pruitt and his “back-to-basics” plan for EPA, which he introduced at a visit to Consol Energy’s Harvey Mine. Speakers said it amounted to little more than a plan to take away lifesaving environmental and public health protections and permit unlimited pollution from fossil fuel companies. Randy Francisco, Organizer with Sierra Club Beyond Coal stated, "When Administrator Pruitt says he wants to get the EPA “back-to-basics” we all know he wants to send the agency back to the days before the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, laws which have protected Pennsylvania families from harmful pollution for decades. And to launch his polluter-friendly agenda, Pruitt choose a mine that was fined $3 million for Clean Water Act violations just last year.” 

Pruitt’s visit comes on the heels of the President’s ‘dirty energy’ executive order, which aimed to roll back pollution limits like the Clean Power Plan (CPP), and as the President calls for a 30 percent cut to the EPA’s budget, including enforcement activities and mine cleanup. Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice said, “If Administrator Pruitt cares about the coalfields, he would help rebuild our local economy for the long term, as programs in the CPP would have done. Interfering with pending rules and removing existing standards will not save the coal industry and will only limit resources for worker retraining and economic diversity, all while killing our streams and degrading the places our families enjoy.” 

Speakers concluded by committing to hold the Trump Administration and Administrator Pruitt accountable for protecting public health and promoting, not restraining, the growth of Pennsylvania’s strong, clean energy economy. Sarah Grugas, a student organizer with the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition said, “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is risking my future for polluter profits. Rolling back regulations will only accelerate climate destructions and threaten my ability to live the American dream. My generation won’t stand for it; we are committed to protecting our future.” 

Watch the live stream here: