Advocacy

Request DEP Hold Public Meeting for Proposed Coal Refuse Disposal Area (Valley Fill)

Consol Energy currently operates six Coal Refuse Disposal Areas or better described as toxic valley fills. They have begun construction and waste disposal in a seventh valley fill destroying a beautiful and lush valley in Greene County. Now they are seeking another permit to fill in another valley that will impact 900 acres and fill small headwater streams that are valuable components of downstream ecosystems.The proposed discharges associated with this valley fill further threaten those ecosystems

This video shows one of these valleys fills side by side with footage before construction and after.

The permit under review is currently open for public comments and request for a public hearing. Take action below to request a public meeting and voice your questions and concerns to the DEP




Our Water Should Be Protected

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The following is a guest post written by Gillian Graber and the Protect PT team:

Why do we need to protect our waters?

Water is life. We depend on water for so many aspects of our lives. Yet our waters are some of the least protected entities in our state. While oil and gas companies contaminate our waters with their irresponsible practices, our state has refused to step in and protect our rights.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has refused to protect our rights to “clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment”, as guaranteed in our Pennsylvania Constitution. Instead, the PA DEP has prioritized gas developers over residents. Protect PT tried expressing our concerns to the PA DEP through letters and meetings, but the DEP continues to issue permits as if nothing is wrong.

This huge industry can break the law over and over again and not face the consequences, so what power do we have as residents to stop it? We are supposed to have an institution to enforce the law, but what happens when they don’t do their job?

We refuse to accept the Department’s refusal to protect your rights. We stand together and use our power which exists in our numbers and our knowledge. We spent over a year researching the actions of the PA DEP and identifying instances where they could have stepped in to protect our waters and didn’t. The PA DEP says they have the “discretion” to take enforcement action as they see fit. Do we, as residents have the discretion to not pay our taxes? Or break the law and not face consequences? No! Justice must be served. We felt the Attorney General of our state was the one to give us that justice.

So, we wrote to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, asking him to investigate the PA DEP’s irresponsible permitting and to enforce our Clean Streams Laws. But we didn’t stop there. We also wrote to Governor Tom Wolf.

And, we asked residents like you to join us in voicing your concerns by sending letters to the Attorney General and Governor. So far, almost 300 people have sent letters through Protect PT’s Action Network page.

Join your neighbors in voicing your concerns to the Attorney General and Governor. Together, we can make enough noise that they won’t be able to ignore us anymore. It’s time for us to stand together to protect our rights.

The stage is set for change. Right now, Attorney General Shapiro is bringing charges against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority for failing to notify residents of unsafe water and lead in the lines. Shapiro said we have rights to clean air and pure water and he is “here to defend that”.

It’s time we ask our Attorney General to make good on his promise to defend our rights! It’s time we demand change.

Permit to Use Beneficial Coal Ash to Reclaim Mine Waste Dump Under Review by DEP

The DEP is considering a permit application  for the beneficial use of stabilized flue gas desulfurization material (stabilized FGD or coal ash) at the over 400-acre Champion coal waste pile, the largest coal refuse pile east of the Mississippi, containing over 37 million tons of coal waste. The Champion Coal Refuse Pile is the lingering scar of Pittsburgh Coal Company’s Champion #1 coal washing operations.

Stabilized FGD, which is made by mixing by waste products from coal-fired power plants and lime or another alkaline agent, will be used in an effort to reclaim the Champion refuse pile. Stabilized FGD material will be placed on the site to promote drainage away from the waste pile and minimize filtration. This has the potential to improve the condition of the area significantly. However, if this process is not done safely and carefully, the material can be dangerous for the communities exposed to it.

According to the DEP, stabilized FGD is one way to help reclaim the coal refuse pile in Robinson Township, Washington County. However, it is important that this reclamation process is carried out safely, lawfully, and with public transparency.  Unfortunately, the permit application materials are only available in Harrisburg. Because the application materials are not available locally, we have several unanswered questions for the DEP about how they will ensure that our water, air, land, and people are not harmed by the transportation, processing and use of stabilized FDG at the Champion coal refuse pile.

Please take action below and request that the DEP hold a public meeting to provide our community vital access to information, relevant documents and plans, and answers to our questions.The DEP should also re-notice the public about this permit application, make the application materials available for review in Washington County, - and reopen or extend the public comment period so that our community’s feedback can be heard.

Send a letter to DEP using the form below:



Support Coal Miners, Urge Your Legislators to Reinstate the Black Lung Fund

Rates of Black Lung disease are on the rise in coal communities across Appalachia, but Congress allowed the excise tax that supports the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to be automatically slashed at the end of 2018. The trust fund, already struggling to remain solvent, would need an increase from 2018 levels in order to remain a stable funding source for miners suffering from this disease.

While black lung benefits were cut, continued inaction on the UMWA’s pension fund were driving it towards insolvency, too, which - union representatives claimed - would happen by 2022 without congressional action. In order to save the pension plan, an additional $260 million would be needed so that the fund could meet its current liabilities and help cover healthcare into the future.

Take action now, send a letter to your legislator below.



Black Lung Disability Fund in Jeopardy unless Congress Acts

Photo sourced from: https://www.alleghenyfront.org/black-lung-disease-is-making-a-comeback-among-appalachian-miners/

Photo sourced from: https://www.alleghenyfront.org/black-lung-disease-is-making-a-comeback-among-appalachian-miners/

Rates of Black Lung disease are on the rise in coal communities across Appalachia, but Congress is set to allow Black Lung Disability benefits to be jeopardized.  Congress has failed to pass an extension of current funding levels, but some members are fervently working to pass this extension as part of an appropriations bill up for a vote on December 21st. Congress must act to protect miners and pass an extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax.

Write a letter to your members of Congress today telling them to pass an extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax before the holidays.

Black Lung, or pneumoconiosis, is caused by inhaling hazardous coal dust.  Companies that operate today pay for benefits for miners who suffer from Black Lung, but, when coal companies file for bankruptcy, miners are left without funds to cover the treatment for this horrible disease. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was designed to fill that gap: it places a small tax on each ton of coal produced, and that money is used to help struggling miners. However, in 2017 alone, more than 2,500 claims were transferred to the Trust Fund due to coal company bankruptcies. This important Trust Fund has been struggling to remain solvent as more people need assistance due to rising rates of Black Lung - and the situation is about to get worse in 2019 when the tax rate is scheduled to fall unless Congress acts now.

The Trust Fund has run at a horrible deficit since its inception and having the rates coal companies pay into the Trust Fund lowered will only drive this deficit up even higher and will continue to be a burden on taxpayers.  Coal companies should be paying more into this Trust Fund, not less. It is their work environments that can cause this disease, and more often than not, when a Coal Company goes bankrupt it will simply change its name and go back to mining operations under a different company name.  Coal companies, as a whole, would save roughly 3 million dollars a week if this bill extension does not happen.  That is 3 million more dollars a week that taxpayers would have to endure on behalf of the coal industry.

Please send a letter telling your members of Congress to pass an extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax with the appropriations bill before the holidays.


#KavaNOPE

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Recent allegations surrounding President Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh have flooded the news lately.  Numerous sexual assault claims have arisen in light of his nomination. I strongly believe that, for too many women, the meaning of being victimized by sexual assault has been lost or distorted or dismissed along the way.  The scrutiny these women are exposed to by bringing forth their claims is painstaking and unwarranted. Not only do they have to live their lives with these horrifying experiences in the back of their minds, but they are also then put under a microscope and made to relive and recreate these awful memories when they come forward.  

Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will be part of making crucial decisions that affect our nation's laws and our interpretations of the law.  Someone who has treated women this way throughout his life does not deserve to have decision-making power over our nation’s most important laws and values.

Additionally, as his background pertains to our environmental and social justice work,  Kavanaugh is an unfavorable candidate for a Supreme Court Justice. We do not need another extreme conservative on the Supreme Court who will not take environmental and human rights seriously. We know that he will not do so because he is willing to brush off these sexual assault accusations with such malice and opposition.  He has caused multiple women to uproot their lives and expose themselves and their families to harsh criticism, and he has treated them with disdain and contempt. This is unacceptable for someone who could potentially be on the highest court in our country. I prefer someone who clearly values all people’s rights and has good and moral ethics.  

We have a serious need for male leaders who respect women and will not dismiss or make light of sexual assault.  I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for women who have raised assault allegations against powerful men.  The battles they must face should not have to be endured by anyone. A good and just leader, in my opinion, respects the rights of ALL people.  No exceptions. Hopefully, in the future, we can learn from our present mistakes and faults.

-Nick Hood, Community Organizer

Send a letter to your Senator below:


CCJ Speaks Out at DEP and in California Borough

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On Thursday, September 6, 2018, the Center for Coalfield Justice bookended their day by making public statements and public comments on issues related to unconventional oil and gas development.

The day began at an event at the Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh, where the Breathe Project organized a press event to draw attention to the Falcon pipeline permits. The Falcon, which would transport natural gas liquids to the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County, PA, is still undergoing review by permit engineer Dana Drake, despite over 101 deficiencies found within the initial draft of the permit. Shell’s responses, as we’ve seen, remain inadequate. Our Campaign Manager, Sarah Maritk, spoke at the event, encouraging the DEP to stop wasting resources to permit this unnecessary infrastructure, saying “Continuing to issue deficiency letter after deficiency letter after deficiency letter to a multi-billion dollar corporation that should know what it’s doing and that has argued that it is capable of constructing and operating this pipeline is an absolute waste of taxpayer funds.” A video of this action is available online through NoPetroPA.

Want to take action and ask the DEP to #DenyTheFalcon? Send a letter via this link!

The day concluded in California Borough, where council members held a second public hearing for a revised draft of their proposed zoning ordinance. CCJ members and supporters spoke out about the lack of protective measures related to setback distances from compressor stations and well pads to protected structures. CCJ staff attorney, Sarah Winner, educated the Borough about the importance of considering Article I, Section 27 (the environmental rights amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution), while CCJ member and Borough resident reminded the Council that the decisions they make today have real consequences, saying “This isn’t like choosing who gets to play first base in Pony league. If something happens, you are the ones that have to live with it.”

To stay updated for to get involved in the campaign in California Borough, please email Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org.



Greene County is Updating Comprehensive Plan

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Greene County’s current comprehensive plan will expire in 2020 and the county is in the process of updating it’s comprehensive plan. A Comprehensive plan serves as a document designed to guide the future actions of a community. It presents a vision for the future, with long-range goals and objectives for all activity that affect the local government. Comprehensive plans are critical documents for local government to access funding sources to support the vision of the region.

The county is currently in the planning process and an advisory committee of the Greene County Planning Commission is working to draft the new comprehensive plan. The 50 member advisory committee has been meeting since March to develop the plan that will help define what the county hopes to accomplish over the next 10 years in terms of community and economic development.

The advisory team is hosting a series of open house-type public meetings to share about the process and get input from residents on what should be included in the draft plan. This is your opportunity early in the process to share whether you are concerned about an increase in development in your rural community, a need to have increased access to broadband and cell service, diversifying employment opportunities, or any other visions, hopes you want to see the county work towards.

The public meetings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, September 18th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Jefferson Fire Hall

1483 Jefferson Rd

Jefferson, PA 15344

Wednesday, September 19th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Center Township Fire Hall

RR 21 Box 397

Rogersville, PA 15359

Thursday, September 20th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Carmichaels Fire hall

420 W George St

Carmichaels, PA 15320

Tuesday, September 25th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Mon View Park Roller Rink

377 Sr2014

Greensboro, PA 15338

Thursday, September 27th from 4 PM to 7 PM

Franklin Township Municipal Building

568 Rolling Meadows Rd

Waynesburg, PA 15370


This is the beginning of the process to get public input on the comprehensive plan and once the draft plan is complete the county will notice a 45 day public period and potentially a public hearing. If you need assistance getting to any of these meetings or want to make sure concerns are raised in your absence please contact Veronica at veronica@coalfieldjustice.org or call 724-229-3550. CCJ will have a team member at all meetings.

If you want more information on the comprehensive planning process you can contact James Protin Jr with Mackin Engineering Company at jprotin@mackinengineering.com.


Washington County Residents Take Action

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The People’s Climate March held by CCJ and Washington United on September 8th, 2018 in Washington, PA was a success!  Despite the morning forecast for potential floods and an all-day rain, over sixty (60) people attended. The people that attended marched around downtown Washington to express their concerns with the Climate, Jobs, and Justice.  Attendee’s stopped at both the Republican and Democratic Headquarters in hopes to provoke action from local legislators and let all candidates running that whoever wins must work for the people and not corporations.

Professor of Psychology at the California University, Ruben Brock and community members Laurie Maglietta, Briann Moye, Karen LeBlanc, Chris Ward and local children who face impacts all got a chance to voice their issues and motivate others during the March.  


CCJ and Washington United helped guide local community members to plan the March in hopes to build skills and develop leadership with our members.  These community members were included in all processes and planning meetings leading up to the March. We highly appreciate all of their work and effort!  



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.