More than 300 workers at Consol Energy’s Bailey Mine complex were furloughed Monday while the company waits for state environmental regulators to approve its permit modification to continue mining near Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County.
The 303 workers, who were notified last week they would be furloughed if the state Department of Environmental Protection did not approve the permit by Friday, were told not to report to work Monday following the overnight shift, company spokesman Brian Aiello said.
Work on the 4L longwall panel beneath Polen Run in Richhill Township has been idle since Sept. 1, Aiello said, although workers in that section continued to perform miscellaneous duties through this past weekend.
The company sought to modify its original mining permit after a recent decision by the state Environmental Hearing Board invalidated some forms of its stream restoration, including some performed under the previous longwall mining permit approved in 2014. The board decided the DEP erroneously allowed mining beneath another area of Polen Run with an improper system in place – a synthetic liner – used in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve the stream.
DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said the agency received Consol’s modified permit Aug. 25, – 10 days after the EHB ruling – and then accepted revisions with additional information form the company Aug. 30 and Sept. 7. The revisions included a different stream mitigation plan with a “polyurethane/polyuria spray material” used to coat metal tanks or pipelines if the conventional mitigation technique was insufficient, Fraley said.
Fraley added timeframes for such reviews vary, so the DEP is unsure when it might be completed.
Aiello said it was the first time in the Bailey complex’s 35-year history that a permit was not approved in a “timely manner” to allow for continued operations.
“Even though we believe there is a less than 1 percent chance that the contingency which necessitated the permit modification will be necessary, the submittal includes a minimally-invasive, localized sealant technology for any potential mitigation work,” Aiello wrote in a email about proposed reclamation work on Polen Run.