Greene County, PA--The Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) and the Sierra Club filed an appeal of a permit issued by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that would allow Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company (Consol) to mine underneath another stream within Ryerson Station State Park despite the anticipated damage. This is the fourth time the groups have been forced to file an appeal of permits for Consol’s Bailey Mine East Expansion.
In the meantime, the groups are asking the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) to halt mining in the park while the appeal is being considered. Back in 2017, the EHB forbade Consol from mining within 100 feet of Kent Run inside Ryerson Station State Park while it heard an appeal of the company’s controversial permit to expand its Bailey Mine due to Consol and DEP predicting significant damage, notably subsidence and flow loss, to the stream.
“It is unconscionable that the only state park in an environmental justice community is being sacrificed for the temporary benefit of this one company, yet again,” Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of Center for Coalfield Justice and resident of Greene County said. “Consol has already destroyed much of Polen Run outside of the park with previous mining activity. We are asking the Environmental Hearing Board to prevent that same damage inside Ryerson Station State Park.”
Last August, the EHB ruled in favor of the two groups on a similar appeal. The court said that it was a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Clean Streams Law for the DEP to issue a permit when the activity was predicted to result in significant stream damage or pollution. The EHB also ruled that it is not lawful or constitutional for the DEP to authorize stream damage even if the company commits to “restoring” a stream by completely reconstructing it. In spite of that ruling, DEP has now approved a new permit amendment under the same stream, Polen Run which had previously denied Consol’s request to mine beneath this portion of Polen Run because it concluded that longwall mining would cause significant damage and the proposed mitigation technique, streambed grouting, would not be successful in restoring the stream. That decision followed a review period of approximately seven years from the time Consol submitted its application.
“Yet again, our state government has failed to protect an environmental justice community, putting Consol’s profits ahead of the last remaining water resources in Ryerson,” Joanne Kilgour, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter said. “Consol received a permit that is practically identical to one the EHB overturned for an upstream section of the mine last summer. How many more times will DEP shift its duty of protecting communities and the environment onto the very people it is supposed to serve?”
Since longwall mining at the Bailey Mine destroyed Duke Lake 13 years ago, conservationists argue these streams are some of the most important remaining water features and fishing spots in the park. The activity authorized by this new permit will likely result in flow loss that would prevent aquatic life, like fish, salamanders, frogs, and macroinvertebrates (such as mayflies, dragonflies, and other insects that live in streams) from surviving in the stream. Thousands of fish have died from mining at Bailey Mine Complex in the past and thousands of future memories and experiences have been stolen from visitors of Ryerson Station State Park.