Special interest coal mining bill approved by Pa. Senate

HARRISBURG, June 8 – Legislation that would reduce protections to streams where coal companies seek to mine under them passed the Senate 32-17 on Tuesday, said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery.

Senate Bill 624, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, would directly affect a pending case before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB Docket No. 2014-072-B) relating to Consol Energy’s longwall mining activity in and near Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park.

Vitali said Scarnati introduced S.B. 624 on April 13 two weeks after receiving a $5,000 contribution by Consol.

The Ryerson State Park case was brought three years ago by the Center for Coalfield Justice and Pennsylvania Sierra Club. A hearing was held in August 2016, and a decision from the state Environmental Hearing Board is expected soon.

Senate Bill 624 has a retroactive effect and would directly affect this case.

According to Vitali, Scarnati’s chief counsel, Drew Crompton, acknowledged that the bill is a response to the pending Consol case.

Consol contributed over $136,000 to the Pennsylvania legislature in 2016, according to Vitali. 

According to records, in 2011, Consol paid for Scarnati’s trip to the Super Bowl in Texas. After media criticism, Scarnati repaid Consol.

“Confidence in government erodes when special-interest groups contribute to elected officials who in turn advance legislation favorable to those contributors,” Vitali said.

In 2005, mining by Consol permanently damaged Duke Lake in Ryerson Station State Park.

The bill is now with the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

 Vitali said he urges Governor Tom Wolf to veto S.B. 624 should it reach his desk.