Prove your humanity

A judge has ordered a halt to mining underneath Kent Run, a stream inside a state park in Greene County. Environmental Hearing Board Judge Steven C. Beckman issued the order Tuesday regarding a Consol Energy plan to expand its Bailey mine complex beneath Ryerson Station State Park.

The order states the company “may not conduct longwall mining within 100 feet of any portion of Kent Run” in a section of the Bailey mine called the 3L Panel. Environmental groups had argued the plan would have damaged the trout stream.

In December, Beckman temporarily blocked the company from mining beneath a 2,400-foot section of the stream while he heard testimony on the case. Much of that centered on a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit allowing Consol subsidiary CNX Coal Resources to mine beneath the park. The plan was to conduct longwall mining beneath Kent Run and Polen Run, another stream that flows inside the park. Consol completed its mining beneath Polen run in late December, according to the hearing records.

LISTEN: Judge Puts the Brakes on Mining Expansion

Two environmental groups, the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club, argued that mining beneath the streams would have potentially damaged the streams by causing subsidence and allowing the streams to flow into cracks opened up by mining. The DEP permit would have allowed the company to fix any damage to the stream by either pouring cement in the cracks or re-building the stream entirely.

Consol argued in a related case that planned subsidence was allowed under the state’s Mine Subsidence Law. In a brief, the company said that preventing it from mining within 100 feet of Kent Run would cause it to lose $15.3 million, as it would have to leave 360,000 tons of coal in the ground.

Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, says mining beneath Kent Run would have irreparably damaged the stream.

“They would have basically just straightened the stream out because their construction efforts don’t allow streams to curve or meander,” Grenter says. “This would fundamentally change the ecosystems around these streams. The DEP never should have issued this permit.”

The DEP declined comment. In a statement, Jimmy Brock, CEO of CNX Coal Resources, called the decision a “dangerous precedent.”

“This is a case of the Environmental Hearing Board attempting to legislate misguided public policy that has the potential to affect thousands of local jobs,” the statement said. “This decision is patently wrong, we will aggressively appeal it and continue to protect our right to compliantly operate under the terms of the permit issued by PA DEP.

Hearing records show the company was planning to begin mining under Kent Run in mid-February.


This story has been updated January 26, 3:40 p.m.