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Environmentalists Tell Legislators: Protect Our Streams

Long-wall coal mines can drain the water from streams on the ground above. (Helen Simonsson/Flickr)
Long-wall coal mines can drain the water from streams on the ground above. (Helen Simonsson/Flickr)
May 25, 2017

HARRISBURG, Penn. -- Environmental advocates want state lawmakers to reject a bill they say would create a loophole in Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law.

Senate Bill 624 would let the coal industry sidestep existing laws prohibiting projects that cause damage to streams by promising to fix them later. According to Veronica Coptis, director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, the legislation specifically targets plans to dig long-wall coal mines underneath two streams that flow into Ryerson State Park.

"We've seen streams in this same watershed go completely dry, and 12 years later have still not been restored,” Coptis said.

The bill was approved by the Senate Energy and Environmental Resources Committee on Monday. It is scheduled to go to the full Senate for a vote on June 5.

Coptis said the bill contains language aimed squarely at appeals filed with the Environmental Hearing Board by her organization and the Sierra Club over permit revisions, granted to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, to mine under the Ryerson State Park streams.

"There is a clause that would retroactively apply this bill to any cases that were heard by the EHB after June 30, 2016,” she said; "and our cases were heard in August."

Appeals by the environmental groups claim the permit revisions violate the Clean Streams Law and the Mining Law.

Andrea Sears/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - PA