DEP holds informal conference on mine permit revision

January 8, 2014
Brian Lohr, a DEP geology specialist, looks over maps at Thursday’s meeting on BMX Mine permit revision. - Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

RUFF CREEK – People concerned about impacts from the expansion of Consol Energy’s proposed BMX Mine in Morris and Washington townships had a chance Wednesday to review plans for a 1,521-acre addition to the mine’s pending permit.

About 20 people attended the informal public conference held by the state Department of Environmental Protection at the Washington Township Municipal Building on the company’s application for the permit revision.

Consol is seeking a revision to its permit application for the BMX Mine. The company filed the application for the new mine, BMX, in May. That application is currently under DEP review, said Debbie Ferenci, a DEP permit clerk.

The company’s BMX Mine application calls for mining 3,068 acres that has already been permitted for Consol’s Bailey Mine. Once the BMX Mine permit is approved, those acres will be deleted from the Bailey permit and included under the BMX’s permit, Ferenci said.

The revision calls for adding to the pending BMX application 1,521 acres of coal for longwall mining. The rectangular block is in an area southeast of Nineveh. Most of it is in Morris Township; only a small sliver is in Washington Township.

Consol plans to mine the block beginning in 2013 and continuing through 2018, said Joel Koricich, acting mining manager for DEP’s California District. Wednesday’s conference was not held at the Morris Township Community Center, where previous mine meetings were held, because the center is being renovated, he said.

According to DEP maps, the area involved in the permit revision includes fewer than 20 homes.

Several people attending the meeting, however, expressed concerns about how their properties will be affected by the mining.

“What can you say after you’re told, that worst-case scenario, the home you built, your dream home, may not be replaceable,” said Kelly Loughman, a Morris Township resident.

Loughman’s home, built in 1991, sits on the edge of a longwall panel. Loughman said company officials met with her and her husband about a month ago and informed them that under a worst-case scenario the home would receive “severe damage.”

Though the company would be required to repair any damage, Loughman said she has talked to others whose properties have been undermined and whose homes have been repaired and the repairs have taken years to complete.

She also is concerned, she said, that the rural nature of the community in which she lives has becomes more industrialized, not only because of coal mining but also because of natural gas extraction.

Her property is now surrounded by Marcellus shale gas wells. “It will never go back to what it was,” Loughman said. “People here are being sacrificed, sacrificed for energy for the world,” she said.

Morris Township supervisor Bob Keller said he, too, is concerned about how mining will impact the community. Consol mines have permitted large blocks of coal in Morris and have begun development mining but have not yet started longwall mining there.

“It’s going to be an experience to say the least,” Keller said.

Keller said the supervisors are concerned about residents leaving the community after their homes are undermined. The supervisors have worked with the coal company, he said, on possible ways to “rejuvenate” the community.

Consol has agreed to build a sewage treatment system for Nineveh and provide land that can possibly be developed for housing, he said. The township also hopes the company will partner with the township in a plan to construct a public water line into the township from Waynesburg, he said.

Another person who attended the meeting, Ken Dufalla of the Izaak Walton League of Greene County, said his group is concerned about the impact of mining on area waterways. The league, he said, has been conducting water testing of streams in the area for the last two years.

Peter Grenter, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, said his group was concerned about mining’s impact on water and residents’ properties, given its effects in other communities.

The center, which has resources to answer resident’s questions about mining, also thought some people might be confused about the permitting of the mine. Some people might have been following the permitting for the Bailey Mine and may not have been aware that the new BMX Mine will be picking up some of Bailey’s permitted areas.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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