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CCJ Staff and Board members enjoy a water balloon fight at Ryerson

CCJ Staff and Board members enjoy a water balloon fight at Ryerson

Governor Tom Wolf and our state legislators have cut protections for streams in Ryerson Station State Park, but the fight to protect the Park is not over. We will work to prevent Consol from profiting by destroying our only state park in Greene County.  We love Ryerson, and it belongs to all of us - not an outside corporation. Ryerson has impacted so many of our lives and inspired so many stories we look back on with fondness.

We want to hear those stories. Tell us your favorite memory from Ryerson, or let us know what activities you do there. What does the Park mean to you?

CCJ will compile these stories into one place to be shared with our community to remind ourselves that we’re all united in the same cause and with local policymakers to remind them that we are not going anywhere.

To share your stories, use this link: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/ryseron-stories 

Send us a photo if you can by emailing smartik@coalfieldjustice.org with your name in the title.

Legal Update on Protecting Streams in Ryerson

Our permit appeals before the Environmental Hearing Board are moving forward. The most recent updates are below.  

Permit Revision No. 204

Permit Revision No. 204 authorizing longwall mining beneath Kent Run and Polen Run in the 3L panel of the Bailey Lower East Expansion. This portion of Kent Run flows within Ryerson Station State Park. In January we successfully petitioned for a supersedeas that prohibited Consol from conducting longwall mining beneath Kent Run while the appeal is pending.  

On June 9, 2017, Consol filed a Motion to Dismiss in our appeal of Permit Revision No. 204 before the Environmental Hearing Board. On June 23, 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection joined Consol’s motion.  

On July 10, 2017, CCJ and Sierra Club filed a response to Consol’s motion, a response to the Department’s motion, and a memorandum of law in opposition to the motions.

On Friday, July 28, 2017, Judge Beckman issued an opinion and order denying the motions to dismiss.

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017 the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissed Consol's appeal of the Environmental Hearing Board's supersedes order. 

Consolidated Appeal of Permit Revisions 180 and 189

Permit Revisions 180 authorized longwall mining at the Bailey Lower East Expansion but did not authorize longwall mining beneath two streams, Kent Run and Polen Run. Permit Revision No. 189 authorized longwall mining and post-mining streambed lining in Polen Run above the 1L and 2L panels of the Bailey Lower East Expansion. CCJ and Sierra Club appealed both permits to the Environmental Hearing Board. The Board held a hearing on the merits of our appeals in August 2016.  

On July 12, 2017, CCJ and Sierra Club filed a supplemental brief addressing the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (10 MAP 2015) including the impact of that decision to our Article I, Section 27 claim. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the text of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution (Article I, Section 27) and the underlying principles of Pennsylvania trust law provide the appropriate standard for judicial review when examining challenges to the constitutionality of Commonwealth agency actions.

On July 21, 2017, Governor Wolf allowed Senate Bill No. 624 to pass into law. The amendments to the Mine Subsidence Act are now known as Act 32 of 2017. On August 8, 2017, CCJ and Sierra Club intend to file another supplemental brief addressing the impact of the amendments to our pending permit appeals.

We anticipate a final decision this summer.

Protect Streams in Ryerson Station State Park from Coal Mining

Consol Energy's Bailey Mine destroyed Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park over ten years ago, and it will never be restored. Ryerson Station State Park is the only state park in Greene County, PA. Now Consol wants to get authorization from the state to undermine more of our water resources, putting in jeopardy the last remaining fishing opportunities in the State Park. Polen Run above the 4L and 5L Panels of the Bailey Lower East Expansion is located in the State Park. Consol predicts that longwall mining will cause total flow loss within the stream. Subsidence induced-flow loss and post-mining stream remediation efforts will eliminate recreational and aquatic life uses of Polen Run within the Park. Our community has sacrificed enough for Consol's private profits, and it is time the DEP and Governor Tom Wolf stand with environmental justice communities and stand by the constitution to protect our natural resources. Sign the petition below demanding the DEP deny the pending application and protect the streams in Ryerson Station State Park.

Governor Wolf Allows Senate Longwall Mining Bill to Pass into Law New Law Will Allow Companies to Destroy PA Streams and State Park

Harrisburg, PA--Governor Wolf allowed Senate Bill 624 to pass into law today. The bill creates an exemption to an 80-year-old law that protects streams and water supplies and will 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. Additionally, a portion of the bill stated that the act would have retroactively applied to permits dating back to October 8, 2005, including those that were subject of a pending appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) brought by the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club.

Introduced by Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25) two weeks after receiving a $5k donation from Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company (Consol), SB 624 was 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 knowingly damage the streams that flow through the area. The new law will now directly impact issues under consideration by the EHB and allow Consol to destroy the remaining streams in the park.

The bill passed the Senate and the House with bipartisan opposition.

In a statement, Veronica Coptis, Executive Director at the Center for Coalfield Justice,  Joanne Kilgour, Pennsylvania Chapter Director for the Sierra Club and Sarah Winner, Staff Attorney at the Center for Coalfield Justice said:

“Governor Tom Wolf supported legislation that sacrificed the constitutional rights of his constituents for Consol’s private gain,” Coptis said. “Governor Wolf, you have failed as a progressive leader and allowed an environmental justice community that has already been damaged by corporate greed, to suffer another blow, destroying our already compromised public park and any future economic opportunities.”

“Governor Wolf, you have made it clear where your priorities lie and it’s not with the people, with local communities or with the environment. You have signaled to corporations that they can blatantly disregard the law if they line politician’s pockets,” Kilgour said. “Thank you to the Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle that stood with Greene County and all future communities that will be devastated by this atrocious law - it is a shame that the Governor did not stand with you.”

“We believe the amendments are unconstitutional and we are evaluating all of our options to take action to protect Pennsylvanians’ environmental rights,” Winner said.

Support the fight to protect Pennsylvanians' environmental rights by making a targeting dontation here: 



Send Governor Tom Wolf a Letter Urging Him to Veto SB 624

Last week, the state legislature passed SB 624, which will allow longwall coal mining operators to predict total flow loss in Pennsylvania streams as long as they promise to fix them. The bill was specifically introduced to counter legal arguments made in our pending litigation to protect streams in and around Ryerson Station State Park from predicted subsidence-induced damage. Now, it is up to Governor Wolf to veto SB 624 by July 21st and protect Pennsylvania's parks and streams. SB 624 is an exemption that would only be made for longwall coal mining operators - not for anyone else and violates our environmental rights in the PA Constitution.  For the health of our streams and for the communities in which they flow, we cannot let this bill become law. Governor Wolf is our last line of defense and we need you to urge him to veto SB 624.

Greene County Residents Urge Governor to Veto SB 624

Greene County residents traveled to Harrisburg to meet with Governor Wolf and his staff to urge him to veto an unconstitutional bill attempting to exempt longwall coal mining from the PA Clean Streams Law, which 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.  

Kim Jones and Atilla Shumaker met with political leaders to make them aware of the lost streams and damages our community has already experienced from longwall mining. Over ten years ago, Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park was destroyed due to longwall mining, and now residents are fighting to protect the few water resources that are left in the Park. A stream on Jones’s property was undermined in 2004 and was dewatered. After years of mitigation attempts, the stream has not been restored to pre-mining conditions which include pre-mining flow and aquatic biology which has not recovered since it was mined.

“Mitigation does not protect streams and I felt it necessary to share my story with the Governor,” said Kim Jones, from Wind Ridge, PA.  “It is just one example of the need to protect streams against severe harm, rather than trying to mitigate the harm after it occurs.”

Streams immediately west of Ryerson Station State Park have not recovered In 2012, DEP two letters The DEP never issued a final order on the success of mitigation on Ms. Jones’s  impacted streams, nor several other areas in the North Fork Dunkard Fork watershed, located in Ryerson Station State Park.

“Even the last review of Pennsylvania’s mining law showed that we have lost several miles of streams. These streams are vital to our community and headwaters that source Pittsburgh's drinking water. The state has been entrusted to protect our resources and Governor Wolf has both a moral and constitutional responsibility to do that for everyone including future generations to enjoy,” said Atilla Shumaker.

Atilla Shumaker with the Wheeling Creek Watershed Association was also with the group that traveled to the Capitol.

At the 11th annual DRYerson Festival, the Center for Coalfield Justice collected video messages from local community members urging Governor Wolf to protect the remaining streams and veto the bill. The delegation delivered these messages directly to the Governor’s office so his staff could hear directly from residents who couldn’t travel to Harrisburg.

Despite bipartisan opposition, the State Senate and House voted to pass SB 624

“Senator Bartolotta and Representative Snyder, who support this unconstitutional legislation, have again failed to prioritize the economic future of Ryerson Station State Park and our families over the private profits of a coal corporation,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of Center for Coalfield Justice. “Our environmental justice community is depending upon Governor Wolf to veto this destructive bill (SB 624) and protect our constitutional rights to clean, safe and healthy streams in and around Ryerson Station State Park.”



Senate Passes Mine Pollution Exemption

Despite bipartisan opposition, the State Senate voted to pass SB 624 today. This bill creates an exemption in an 80 year old law that would essentially let mining companies pollute now and clean up their mess later, if ever. What's worse, the bill will retroactively include certain mining permits, essentially allowing Consol Energy to continue, unimpeded, the destruction of Ryerson Station State Park with their operations at the Bailey Mine.  

Thomas Schuster Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative and Veronica Coptis Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice responded in unison:

“Governor Wolf must veto this bill. In doing so he will send a strong message to fossil fuel companies that people's rights come before corporate greed. We are incredibly disappointed in the actions of the Senate today and urge lawmakers in that body to look beyond their campaign coffers when making legislative decisions that affect people across the state. Thank you to the 21 Republican and Democratic Senators who stood up to this bill and voted no. Now it's up to Governor Wolf to take decisive action, putting a stop to this blatant corporate cash grab, by vetoing SB 624."

Community Comes Together to Fight for Streams in Ryerson Station State Park

The 11th Annual DRYerson Festival was a huge success. Over 60 people came together to celebrate Ryerson Station State Park and took action to protect our streams in and around the park.

We celebrated with good food and awesome music from the talented Steve Ventura, who also plays in the band Mon Valley Push. . Our community organizer, Sarah Martik, made sure folks knew what was going on, talked with people about CCJ’s work, and even sang “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat with Steve Our staff attorney, Sarah Winner, answered questions about the pending litigation. Veronica Coptis, our Executive Director, delivered the following comments to the community:

Being here at Ryerson with all of you is so powerful to me. It is impossible to put into words the influence these majestic hills and forests have had on me. I grew up here as I’m sure so did many of you. Most major memories in my life have something that ties back to the park, our streams, and what used to be our lake. That is why it means the world to me and the Center for Coalfield Justice that you took time today to make it clear that our community will fight back against the many attacks on our park right now.

 Over the decade we have built public pressure and held Consol accountable to the law, and we have been winning. This past winter, when Governor Tom Wolf sided with Consol and issued yet another permit despite the fact that it was predicted our streams would be dewatered, we stood up and said no. Our amazing attorney, Sarah Winner, quickly filed an appeal and a supersedeas, which means asking the judge to halt operations while the legal case proceeds because the stream would suffer damage that could be permanent. Mike Becher and Susan Waldie from Appalachian Mountain Advocates joined our legal team shortly before the hearing in January. We WON because of the hard work of our legal team and the support from all of you. We are still waiting for the final decision from the Environmental Hearing Board judges, but make sure to sign in so you don’t miss any updates.

 As they’ve made clear, taking our lake, taking our streams, is not enough for Consol. They have applied for more permits to mine under more streams in the park. We need your help to show the Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Wolf that this time they should be on the right side, with the community, and deny these permits.

 Because we are winning, the coal industry is pushing back. They are lobbying for Senate Bill 624, which attempts to exempt the longwall coal mining industry from the Clean Streams Law. SB 624 was passed in the Senate along party lines and is in the House of Representatives. It is crucial today that we send a clear message to Governor Tom Wolf that it is time he stand with environmental justice communities and not coal companies. We need the Governor to veto this unconstitutional legislation, and we encourage all of you to record a video message that I will be delivering to his staff in person on Monday in Harrisburg. Our volunteer, Eva, will be recording your messages over by the canoe, so stop over to see her before you leave today.

I am honored to serve you all and make our concerns heard in Harrisburg but I can’t do it alone. The fight to protect this park is going to be a long one, but together I know that I will be sitting by the iron bridge one day teaching my daughter how to fish like my dad did with me.

 At the same time that we are working so diligently to protect the park from more harm, the Ryerson Task Force is working hard to rebuild a place where memories can be made again. The design work for the new pool almost completed and feasibility studies are being done for restoring the stream in through the dry lake bed. But all of the money that has been set aside for restoring Ryerson will be wasted if we don’t have any water left in the park. So, if you haven’t already today, take action by recording a video, signing up to receive emails from us so you can sign petitions, and just talking to your neighbors about what we want for our towns.

Over fifteen people recorded video messages to Governor Tom Wolf about what Ryerson Station State Park means to them and why protecting the park is so important. There can be no doubt that  people are dedicated to the fight for Ryerson are going do what it takes to protect it.  

 We ended the day with water balloons. Check out more pictures from the event on our facebook page

Thank you to everyone that supported and attended this year’s DRYerson Festival!

The New Yorker: The Future of Coal Country

Bailey Mine Prep Plant (Photo Credit: CCJ)

Bailey Mine Prep Plant (Photo Credit: CCJ)

By Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker

One Sunday morning, just after deer-hunting season ended, Veronica Coptis, a community organizer in rural Greene County, Pennsylvania, climbed onto her father’s four-wheeler. She set off for a ridge a quarter of a mile from her parents’ small farmhouse, where she was brought up with her brother and two sisters. “Those are coyote tracks,” she called over the engine noise, pointing down at a set of fresh paw prints.

At the crest of the ridge, she stopped along a dirt track and scanned in both directions for security guards. Around her stretched a three-mile wasteland of valleys. Once an untouched landscape of white oak and shagbark hickory, it now belonged to Consol Energy and served as the refuse area for the Bailey Mine Complex, the largest underground coal mine in the United States.

Read full story at the New Yorker

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