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Mining permit in state park halted by judge

Ryerson Station State Park

Chris Collins / Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

Ryerson Station State Park Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

A judge has ordered a halt to mining underneath 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. Environmental groups had argued the plan would have damaged a high-quality stream in the park.

In December, Beckman temporarily blocked the permit while he heard testimony on the case, which centered on a state Department of Environmental Protection permit to allow Consol subsidiary CNX Coal Resources to mine beneath the park. The plan was to conduct longwall mining beneath Kent Run, potentially causing subsidence and the stream to flow into cracks opened up by mining.

Environmental groups argued that 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.

Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, which challenged the permit along with the Sierra Club, says that 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 is from the Allegheny Front, a public radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania, airing on WESA in Pittsburgh and on stations throughout the region.

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