Group appeals Bailey Mine permit

May 30, 2014

The Center for Coalfield Justice Friday appealed the issuance of a mining permit that will allow Consol Energy’s Bailey Mine to longwall mine in an area that includes the main feeder streams to the now-dry Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park.

The group filed the appeal with the state Environmental Hearing Board on a permit revision issued May 1 by the state Department of Environmental Protection allowing the company to longwall mine 3,175 acres as part of its Bailey Lower East Expansion.

The company will mine beneath 14 streams, the center said. A loss or reduction of stream flow are predicted for four streams that flow into the park, including North Fork Dunkard Fork, the main stream flowing into Duke Lake; Polen Run and Kent Run.

“First, Consol destroyed Duke Lake in the middle of Ryerson Station State Park,” said Patrick Grenter, the center’s executive director. “Now, they’re looking to destroy the streams that flow through the dry lake bed. When will the DEP learn its lesson and just deny the permit?” he said.

Consol agreed last April to pay $36 million to rebuild the dam to restore Duke Lake, though it claims its mining activities were not the cause of cracks that developed in the Duke Lake dam in 2005. Development of a new dam is now in the permitting phase.

It took years of fighting to get the dam rebuilt, Grenter said. “We may have a new dam, but with no feeder streams,” he said.

The company in its permit application admits flow reductions will occur in North Fork Dunkard Fork as a result of mining and it may take as long as three years for the stream to recover, the Center said.

The company indicated this will impact recreational use of the stream, and the center quotes the company’s permit application, which states: “Flow loss would most likely reduce, if not eliminate, fishing opportunities within the affected stream reaches.”

DEP refused to issue the permit revision for several years because of concerns about stream impacts, the center said. Several deficiency letters issued to the company during permit review address the company’s mitigation plans for the streams.

Deficiency letters, cited in the group’s appeal, asked the company to provide coal support beneath portions of both Kent Run and Polen Run, noting mitigation by means of stream bed grouting would not be effective.

One DEP letter, quoted in the appeal, stated “previously undermined streams immediately west of the revision area have not recovered after well-performed streambed grouting.”

Despite the concerns, DEP issued the permit revision allowing longwall mining for the entire acreage, requiring stream restoration but imposing no restrictions on mining beneath Kent Run, North Fork Dunkard Fork or the other streams in the permit area.

The permit did include a special condition for mining beneath Polen Run; however, Grenter said, the condition is unclear and “doesn’t make sense.”

The condition requires the company to seek further approval from DEP to mine beneath Polen Run after the permit revision is granted. If no approval is granted to mine beneath Polen Run, the company must employ a plan that would apparently require leaving coal support for the stream.

Though the condition appears to require further approval to mine beneath the stream, the permit revision itself allows mining for the entire 3,175 acres, including areas beneath the stream, Grenter said.

If DEP intended to prohibit mining beneath Polen Run, it should have included that as a condition in the permit revision, he said. In addition, the permit fails to say under what conditions mining will be permitted under Polen Run.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the department would not comment on the appeal.

A statement issued by Consol said: “The Center for Coalfield Justice’s actions continue to ignore the facts and clearly reveal their anti-jobs, anti-energy, anti-prosperity agenda that only serves to weaken our region’s competitiveness.”

The Center is appealing the permit based on violations of Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act, Clean Streams Law and Environmental Rights Amendment of the state Constitution.

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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