Center for Coalfield Justice staff recently attended a public hearing in Nottingham Township for a coal operator seeking a conditional-use permit to build surface structures associated with a new deep mine. Ramaco, which is run by a former Massey Energy executive, is interested in opening a new deep mine in the quiet neighborhood near Mingo Creek Park.
The company began the meeting with a limited overview of the project; stating that it would be a benefit to the community by driving the economy and cleaning up past mining mistakes. Both of these claims are hard to believe.
The first claim falls flat by looking at the economic health of other comparable coal-mining communities. Greene County has the highest coal production of any county in Pennsylvania, and is by all accounts the poorest or second-poorest county in Pennsylvania. Promoting new mining as a way to clean pollution from past mining fails any smell test as well. Pennsylvania coalfield communities need to take steps to free ourselves from our coal addiction; we cannot expect better results when we use the same playbook again and again.
The bluster we heard from the mine representatives was consistent with most of the meetings we attend under similar circumstances – lots of promises of prosperity and economic development, no consideration of the harms or dangers. What made this meeting special was the community response that followed.
Unlike many other communities in the coalfields, Nottingham Township was not oppressed or beaten down. Rather, citizens were empowered to fight for their rights. More than 100 residents came out to show their opposition to the new mine invading their community. Those living closest to the site organized their neighbors in the days beforehand to educate them on how this facility will impact the nature of the township. One individual actually called out the inconsistencies of what the mine officials said at the meeting versus what had been promised from across his dining room table. Several of the township supervisors made their opposition to the facility clear, but said they were limited in their ability to prevent the mine from being developed. Staff at the Center for Coalfield Justice is committed to working with township officials to help them take all steps in their power to protect their constituents from this potentially destructive mine.
There are several additional permitting steps still to be completed before this facility can begin, and CCJ is excited to work with this community through this process. We hope that other communities in the coalfields will see that if we join together, we can overcome and turn the tides against the years of oppression the coal industry has forced upon us.
Coptis is a community organizer with the Center for Coalfield Justice.