NEWS RELEASE

PADEP Undermines its Public Trust Responsibility, Report Finds

Citizens Coal Council Urges Reform of Act 54

Bridgeville, PA, (March 30, 2015) – The Citizens Coal Council (CCC) today released a comprehensive independent analysis of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) recently released fourth Act 54 five-year report. This five-year report assessed the impacts of underground coal mining from 2008 to 2013. The CCC analysis, “Undermining the Public Trust” was prepared by consulting ecologists Schmid and Company Inc., from Media, PA.

“Our analysis concludes that the permitting and enforcement activities of the PADEP’s Mining Program are not set up to identify and monitor, much less prevent or oversee repairs of wide scale impacts from longwall mines,” stated Aimee Erickson, Executive Director, Citizens Coal Council.

“Our review of this 4th Assessment leads to the inescapable conclusion that the PADEP is not implementing its Mining Program in accordance with the intent of Act 54, and clearly is at odds with Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” said Stephen Kunz, lead author of the report.

Among the key findings of the CCC analysis:

Despite more than 20 years since Act 54 was adopted, the PADEP still has no systematic process or database in place to accurately identify resources at risk from underground mining and to track impacts and resolution of impacts.

Longwall mines were responsible for 97% of structure impacts, 89% of land impacts, and 100% of stream impacts during the 4th Assessment period.

The PADEP permits longwall mines to continue to operate, and even expand, despite confirmed cases of permanent flow losses in streams.

Even if stream flow eventually recovers after mining, the stream chemistry does not recover to pre-mining levels.

The PADEP and mining operators use out-of-date models and assumptions, such that 25% of the water supply impacts occurred outside the predicted impact area.

Additional Resources:

http://www.act54reform.net

http://www.citizenscoalcouncil.org/longwall-mining.html

http://www.longwallminingreform.org

PADEP fourth Act 54 five-year report

Media Contacts:

Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council, at (412) 257-2223 or aimee@citizenscoalcouncil.org

Stephen P. Kunz, Schmid & Company, Inc., at (610) 356-1416 or spkunz@aol.com

About CCC:

The Citizens Coal Council is a national network that advocates for full enforcement of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and its delegated state programs. Our mission is to inform, empower and work for and with communities affected by the mining, processing and use of coal. For more about us, see our website at http://www.citizenscoalcouncil.org.

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SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES: 

Act 54 Infographic

Act 54 Infographic (Click to enlarge)

Background information on Act 54 (.pdf file)

Deep Mine Mediation Project Consensus Proposal (.pdf file)

Download the PDF version of this press release

***PRESS RELEASE*** “Twenty Years Later: Southwestern PA Residents Pay the Price in Agency’s Failures: Reform of 1994 Pennsylvania Act 54 is Needed Now”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Twenty Years Later: Southwestern PA Residents Pay the Price in Agency’s Failures

Reform of 1994 Pennsylvania Act 54 is Needed Now

Bridgeville, PA.///January 7, 2015///  The December 30th release of the Fourth Act 54 Five-Year Report, completed by the University of Pittsburgh and issued by the PADEP, reveals the agency’s continued inability to properly monitor and enforce underground coal mining activity.

At 470 pages and a price tag of $600,000, the latest Act 54 Assessment reveals glaring problems in PADEP recordkeeping that serve to obscure the true impacts of longwall mining.  The Fourth Act 54 Assessment conveys a baffling array of issues with incomplete, conflicting, confusing, or missing electronic and paper files, leaving little doubt that the PADEP simply cannot monitor underground mining adequately enough to fulfill its legislatively-mandated responsibility to protect Pennsylvania citizens and the environment.

In addition to the inherent difficulties in obtaining, organizing, and analyzing the data, the University had to construct a database to identify properties, surface and hydrologic features, and evaluate changes and effects over time.  This database comprised a large portion of the expense incurred by the University, paid for by taxpayers, in compiling the report.  Inexplicably, the PADEP’s agreement with the University demanded that the University make full use of the PADEP’s GIS database, yet the PADEP refused to allow the University access to this database (“Act 54 Report on the Impacts of Underground Coal Mining”, 2008-2013, XI-3), casting some doubt as to whether the PADEP’s GIS database even exists.

PADEP map labeling “systems” show a clear disregard for the importance of surface structures, evidenced by the University’s findings that the PADEP commonly misclassified buildings such as homes and garages as “land” for the purposes of recording the impacts of underground mining (X-4). The difficulty in understanding the true impact of longwall mining is exacerbated by the PADEP’s lackadaisical “requirements” for mining companies’ water monitoring reports: “mine operators do not use [the PADEP’s] forms and instead create their own.  One consequence is that data [that] is required [on the PADEP’s forms], is only occasionally submitted.” (X-7).

The PADEP’s method for tracking surface features and water resources is woefully poor, to the extent that the agency’s “data collection exceeds the ability to manage the data, precluding the data from being included in decision making frameworks” (XI-9, emphasis added).  It was only after the University had completed its data collection that they learned the PADEP received biology data from two of the largest longwall mines in the country.  The PADEP stated that the “data had been misplaced for several months” (X-8, X-9).

“The PADEP has had over 20 years to properly and efficiently monitor coal mining activities.  The fact that significant damages associated with longwall mining continue to occur throughout southwestern Pennsylvania is largely due to a failed regulatory process and for this reason reform of Act 54 must begin now” states Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of the Citizens Coal Council.

CCC has filed a Right to Know Law request to obtain a copy of the GIS database and all other information that went into the preparation of this Fourth Act 54 Assessment and which should be publicly available.  CCC has also commissioned Schmid & Company, Inc. (of Media PA) to conduct a comprehensive independent analysis and review of the Fourth Act 54 Assessment.  This analysis is expected to be completed later this month.  A similar review by Schmid and Company of the Third Act 54 Assessment examined problems associated with that report, many of which have yet to be addressed in the latest Act 54 Assessment.

Media Contacts:

Aimee Erickson, Citizens Coal Council, at (412) 257-2223 or aimee@citizenscoalcouncil.org

Stephen P. Kunz, Schmid & Company, Inc., at (610) 356-1416 or spkunz@aol.com

Other Sources of Information

http://www.act54reform.net

http://www.citizenscoalcouncil.org/longwall-mining.html

http://www.longwallminingreform.org

About CCC

The Citizens Coal Council is a national network that advocates for full enforcement of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and its delegated state programs. Our mission is to inform, empower and work for and with communities affected by the mining, processing and use of coal. For more about us, see our website at http://www.citizenscoalcouncil.org.

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Pro-coal cronies shout “ECONOMY!”, ignore environment (and, apparently, reality)

The coal industry hobnobbers in Harrisburg are at it again, and this time they’re ramping up their war against Pennsylvanians (and Pennsylvania’s water resources) by touting—you guessed it—the economic side of coal [they say “benefits”, we beg to differ].

A study released by the Pennsylvania Economy League, paid for by the PA Coal Alliance, and doted on by Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington County) gives the same-old-same-old [faulty] logic for the pro-coal, anti-renewable, big-money machine that has been destroying homes and PA waterways for more than 2 decades.

When we say "machine", we mean it both literally and figuratively.  This beast is the longwall machine.

When we say “machine”, we mean it both literally and figuratively. This beast is the longwall machine.

Some of the arguments that the PA Coal Alliance/Solobay/pro-coal bosom buddies make include:

 1) the coal industry provides jobs, both directly and indirectly. 

Sure it does.  But look at it this way: longwall mining is the most widely practiced mining method in PA.  With the mechanization of mining, coal companies have done away with a large proportion of the jobs.  The coal industry wants to make mining fully mechanized.  That means: no miners.  Productivity goes up, costs go down. Trying to view the coal industry as some altruistic, job-providing, pie-in-the-sky entity belies the fact that if providing jobs were actually their #1 concern, not a single miner would have lost his or her job.  It’s time to stop viewing Big Coal so unrealistically.

2) coal mining contributes billions to the economy.

Sure it does.  But it also is extremely destructive. Coal is non-renewable [read: once it runs out, that’s it, there’s no more], it produces an insane amount of pollution in the air and water (arsenic, mercury… glass of water, anyone?), and mining the coal with the longwall method has been proven to dry up streams and water supplies and cause serious damage to homes.  Relying so heavily on coal is short-sighted.  Why can’t Pennsylvania look to the future with sustainable jobs that contribute to the economy without making our state totally unliveable?  What is the TRUE cost of coal? Next!

3) mining provides a higher-than-average salary.

There are lots of (sustainable, ecologically-sound) jobs that can provide higher-than-average salary in PA, if it was in an industry that would receive higher-than-average attention from our politicians.  Big Coal has deep pockets, without a doubt.  But only considering coal because it’s already being mined or the coal plants are already burning makes no sense in the long-term.  Sure, we had a cold winter.  Every winter is a cold winter. That doesn’t mean we have to make an extra effort to mine or burn coal, it just means we have to be smarter about our energy sources.  We can have our heat (and our A/C, and our computers) without burning coal. It would be nice if we had as much of an interest by our political powers-that-be in transitioning to sustainable, green jobs as there is in keeping and promoting dirty energy jobs.

4) 30 Pennsylvania counties are home to coal-mining activities

This is just an insult.  The HIGHEST-PRODUCING longwall mine in the country is located in Greene County, PA. Out of PA’s 67 counties, Greene County is the 7th poorest county in the entire state. The median household income for Greene County according to the U.S. Census was $42,837, nearly $10,000 LESS than Pennsylvania as a whole. What were they saying about mining jobs being so high-paying? Hmmm…

So, what alternatives do we have?

Germany has set the example for the possibilities of renewable energy.  In two short years, the renewable energy sector grew from providing just over 6% of total electricity to around 25% (in 2012). They’ve implemented some innovative ideas and lowered the cost of renewable electrical generation to the same level as conventional electrical generation.  So, power bills from renewable energy are the same as power bills from coal energy.  AGAIN, THIS HAPPENED IN 2 YEARS.  THE TIME TO FOCUS ON CHANGE IS NOW.

If Germany can do it, we can do it.  (Photo: 3tier, Inc.)

If Germany can do it, we can do it. (Photo: Copyright (c) 2011 3TIER, Inc.)

You don’t have to be an “environmental extremist” to see the benefits of renewable energy and sustainable jobs.  Not only will it mean much-needed high-paying work for Pennsylvanians, but it will also mean leaving our children and grandchildren with air that they can breathe and water that they can drink.

You can read the pro-coal report here.

For a healthy dose of reality, have a look at:

Visit our homepage at citizenscoalcouncil.org

angry king coal

 

Citizens Join State in Enforcing Longwall Coal Mining-Damaged Streams Cases

Consol Coal Co.’s Longwall Mining Damage Repair Work on Six Streams

Declared Futile by PADEP – Damage Is Permanent

Citizens Coal Council Urges Reform of Mining Law

Pittsburgh, PA, (June 27, 2013) – The Citizens Coal Council (CCC) filed two Petitions with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board requesting formal status as an Intervenor in the proceedings of Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, LLC, v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). The PADEP determined late last year that Consol’s underground longwall coal mining beneath several streams in Greene County had caused irreparable damage, and that Consol’s repair efforts were futile. Consol has appealed PADEP’s finding, and CCC seeks to ensure that the public interest is protected from Consol’s evasive legal maneuvers and its political pressures on the agency.

Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of CCC, described her organization’s court filing:

Our members have been directly affected by Consol’s underground longwall mining operations and Consol’s ‘planned intentional subsidence’ which causes the deliberate collapsing of our streams, our water wells, and the entire aquifer as well as our homes, our farms, our rural communities.

Pennsylvania’s “Act 54” of 1994 repealed decades of environmental protection from coal mining subsidence damage, and the past twenty years have produced a litany of cases with widespread damage and destruction to homes, farms, drinking water wells, wetlands and streams from longwall method of coal mining. It’s time to correct the errors of the 1994 law and reform Act 54 to stop allowing the rampant subsidence damage across Southwestern Pennsylvania from longwall coal mining.”

Local farmer Kim Jones of Wind Ridge explained:

This case is very important not only for us, but for everyone. We can’t continue to allow the longwall coal mining industry to de-water our streams and our aquifers. In addition to the widespread damage it causes, longwalling is collapsing rural economic development opportunities and harming proven sustainable industries such as farming. We all need water to survive.”

CCC is represented in the case by Michael D. Fiorentino, a public interest lawyer based in Media, PA.

Media Contact

Aimee Erickson, Executive Director, Citizens Coal Council at (724) 470-3982 or aimee@citizenscoalcouncil.org.

Editor’s Notes

Further information on Pennsylvania Longwall Mining can be found online here:

The Increasing Damage from Underground Coal Mining in PA: A Review and Analysis of PADEP’s Third Act 54 Report by Schmid & Co. http://www.schmidco.com/Final%20Report%2026%20July%202010.pdf

The Center for Public Integrity: New Scrutiny of “Longwall” Mining Finds Damage in Pennsylvania Streams http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/06/21/12877/new-scrutiny-longwall-mining-finds-damage-pennsylvania-streams

CFPI’s original investigative report, The Hidden Costs of Clean Coal – The Environmental and Human Disaster of Longwall Coal Mining:

http://www.publicintegrity.org/environment/energy/longwall-mining

Find .doc version of this press release here.

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Citizens Advisory Council visits longwall mined areas in Greene & Washington Counties

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-appointed Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) toured longwall mining affected areas in Greene and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania on October 4th.   The CAC was accompanied by the Act 54 Reform Coalition, who clearly demonstrated evidence throughout the day that Pennsylvania’s Act 54 is NOT WORKING to protect citizens and the environment from the problems caused by longwall coal mining.

To see a gallery of photos from the tour, please click here.

Among the stops on the tour, CAC and Coalition groups visited the Shields Flower & Herb Farm, Kim Jones’s farm, Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park, and the historic Manchester Farm in Avella, PA.  CAC members got to experience the sadness, anger and frustration that just a few of the many residents who have been negatively impacted by mining have felt over the years.

Tuesday evening featured a public meeting in which residents, as well as coal industry representatives, testified before the CAC.  The CAC listened as more homeowners explained the upheavals caused by mining, and how their lives have not been the same since.  Once again, the same themes became apparent, that the law is flawed, how residents are helpless to fight it, and how Act 54 is a catastrophic failure.  The Act 54 Reform Coalition, along with residents, made it abundantly clear that the law HAS to change, and that we are calling on the CAC to recommend that change!

The CAC will be accepting comments up until 2 weeks after the meeting date (up until October 18th).

News articles covering the the CAC visit:

Introduction

What is Act 54?

Act 54 is an amendment that was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1994.  Act 54 amended the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act of 1966.  For nearly 30 years, the 1966 law had prohibited any damage to structures from underground coal mining.  Act 54 changed that and allowed surface damages, provided the mine company agreed to  “repair” or “restore”  certain damages to structures and water supplies that they caused.

Since that time, significant impacts to structures, land, and water resources have occurred throughout the coalfields of southwestern Pennsylvania, primarily as a result of longwall mining, and most of the damage has not been repaired or restored.

Why reform Act 54?

One of Act 54′s stipulations was that PADEP conduct an analysis every 5 years to see what kind of effects, if any, had occurred as a result of the amended law.  The most recent 5-year report, covering 2003-2008, supplied a lot of data, but practically zero analysis.  Seeing this as a problem, Citizens Coal Council commissioned two professional studies by ecological consulting firm Schmid and Company.  One was a review of the PADEP 5-year report on Act 54; the other was an independent analysis of the impacts of longwall mining.  After studying hundreds of pages of documents, Schmid and Company’s analyses scientifically documented what citizens in PA’s coalfields already knew: damage from longwall mining is INCREASING in western PA.  It’s time to protect people and the environment from the impacts of longwall mining.  It’s time to reform Act 54.

A crack in basement floor appears over 10 years after longwall mining occurs. The PADEP and mining industry argue that subsidence is predictable and occurs within a short period after the longwall passes.

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