Rejuventating a community, not destroying it

January 13, 2014

Whenever there is a presentation to explain a coal company’s plan to add to its mining permit, we can expect opposing opinions.

That was the case last week when about 20 people attended the informal public conference held by the state Department of Environmental Protection at the Washington Township Municipal Building in Greene County on the expansion of Consol Energy’s proposed BMX Mine in Morris and Washington townships. Residents concerned about impacts from the expansion of Consol’s operations had a chance to review plans for a 1,521-acre addition to the mine’s pending permit, which the company filed in May and is currently under review by the DEP.

The area involved in the permit revision includes fewer than 20 homes, but that does not diminish the anxiety of homeowners who will directly be affected by longwall mining.

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

Loughman’s home, built in 1991, sits on the edge of a longwall panel. She 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.”

Of course, the company would be required to repair any damage, and repairs often take years to complete. Yet, we have seen this same scenario play out in the past. Longwall mining in Greene County is nothing new and residents whose homes fall within the mining panels should know what to expect.

The presentation made it clear that this largely rural community has become more industrialized, not only because of coal mining but also because of natural gas extraction. One point was particularly pertinent – Morris Township Supervisor Bob Keller said he and his colleagues are concerned about residents leaving the community after their homes are undermined. And we need only look to the Greene County community of Holbrook to see a coal company’s impact, thanks to Alpha Natural Resources purchasing most of the homes there.

We don’t expect that to happen in Morris Township. Yet we can’t ignore Loughman’s comment that “people here are being sacrificed, sacrificed for energy for the world.”

We have no doubt Consol’s request for a revision to its proposed permit will be approved. Our hope is once mining gets underway, the company fulfills its responsibilities under the law and, as Keller suggested, the coal company and supervisors continue to finds ways to “rejuvenate” the community, not destroy it.



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