The state Environmental Hearing Board issued an order Tuesday prohibiting Consol Energy’s Bailey Mine from longwall mining within 100 feet of Kent Run in Ryerson Station State Park until an appeal is litigated.
Acting on a petition filed by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Sierra Club, EHB Judge Steven Beckman permitted the company to continue mining in its 3L longwall panel but prohibited it from mining within 100 feet of the stream.
“This is a big deal,” said Patrick Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice. “As far as I know, no order has ever been issued in Pennsylvania to a company to stop mining like this. We are thrilled that the environmental hearing board halted destructive longwall mining underneath Kent Run.”
The groups have maintained the stream, one of the most important remaining water resources in the park, will be adversely impacted by the mining. The company has argues any impacts would be temporary and could be addressed through mitigation efforts.
Jimmy Brock, chief executive officer of CNX Coal Resources LP, which operates the mine for Consol, called the decision “patently wrong” and said the company will appeal it.
“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,” Brock said in a prepared statement. “It is a dangerous precedent when radical groups like the Sierra Club and Center for Coalfield Justice are permitted to manipulate the system to advance their anti-jobs agenda which has real world consequences.”
The two groups appealed a state Department of Environmental Protection permit issued in December that allowed the company to mine beneath portions of Kent Run and Polen Run with the requirement it remediate any damages.
The groups also filed a petition for supersedeas seeking to halt mining under the streams until the appeal could be heard.
Acting on the petition for supersedeas, Beckman issued an order earlier temporarily preventing the company from mining with 500 feet of Kent Run. At the time the order was issued, however, Polen Run had already been undermined.
The judge’s order issued Tuesday granting the groups’ petition for supersedeas will prohibit mining under Kent Run until the group’s appeal of the DEP permit can be litigated
Grenter said he did not know how long that might take. However, he noted, a similar appeal filed by the groups against Consol regarding mining beneath streams near the park in May 2014 only went to trial in August. A decision in that case, also before Beckman, is expected in several weeks, he said.
In court filings, Consol has said it did not expected to be mining beneath Kent Run until mid-February.
The company has maintained moving its longwall to another panel to avoid mining within 100 feet of Kent Run, would be complicated and costly. It noted coal that would be left in the panel that could not be mined because of the 100-foot buffer is valued at $15.3 million. The company maintains it can remediate any impact to the streams caused by mine subsidence.
Consol also had asked the judge to order the two groups to post a bond to cover any loss sustained by the company as a result of the delay caused by the litigation. Beckman denied the request.
The judge granted the petition in a two-page order. He noted a opinion regarding the order granting supersedeas will be issued later.