Consol Energy has agreed not to conduct longwall mining beneath a section of a southwestern Pennsylvania stream, as part of a settlement it reached with environmental groups.
In addition, the company discontinued an appeal of a court decision that blocked it from mining beneath another nearby stream with longwall mining, a method of coal removal that shears off long sections of rock. The technique can cause the ground above it to fall in, or subside, which can cause problems for buildings and waterways on the surface.
As part of the settlement, Consol Energy will not conduct longwall mining beneath the “3L” section of Kent Run, a small stream that runs through Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County. The Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club had argued that longwall mining could crack the stream bed, causing damage to water flow and aquatic life.
Instead of longwall mining, the company will now conduct a less-invasive type of mining, called “development mining,” beneath Kent Run.
“(T)he parties agreed to quit fighting now and also agreed that we can pick the fight back up again if the DEP approves longwall mining beneath Kent Run in the future,” wrote Sarah Winner, attorney for the Center for Coalfield Justice, on the group’s website.
In exchange for the settlement, the group has agreed to drop its challenge to the company’s plans at the stream.
Zach Smith, a spokesman for Consol, said in an email: “We’re satisfied that the appeal from the other parties was withdrawn to avoid any further unnecessary litigation on this matter.”
Last January, an environmental hearing board judge halted mining within 100 feet of the 3L section of Kent Run.
The company had argued that not being able to mine under that section would cause it to lose $15.3 million, as it would have to leave 360,000 tons of coal in the ground.
In August, the Environmental Hearing Board again sided with the environmental groups by overturning a permit revision that allowed Consol to conduct longwall mining beneath another nearby stream, Polen Run.
Consol appealed that decision to Commonwealth Court. But in a filing this month, the company dropped the appeal.
This story was published in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WESA, Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY, to cover the commonwealth’s energy economy. Read more stories at StateImpact Pennsylvania's website.