Wolf urged to veto special-interest coal mining bill

HARRISBURG, July 10 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, urged Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf today to veto S.B. 624, which would reduce protections to streams where coal companies seek to mine underneath them and would interfere with pending litigation.

The bill passed the Senate today and is expected to be on the governor’s desk soon.

“I urge you to veto this bill,” Vitali wrote in the letter. “The legislation is both unconstitutional and bad public policy.”

Vitali said S.B. 624 violates Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which prohibits special legislation.

Senate Bill 624 is directed at one particular coal company, CONSUL in one particular location, Ryerson Station State Park, he said. Introduced by Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, the bill 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 this Greene County state park.

Vitali said the bill also violates Article I section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the Environmental Rights Amendment), as recently interpreted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Longwall mining activity by CONSOL energy under Ryerson Station State Park has already caused permanent damage to the park. In 2005, mining by CONSOL permanently damaged Duke Lake in the park.

“In addition to Ryerson Station State Park, the bill would reduce protections afforded to other streams where coal companies seek to conduct longwall mining operations underneath them,” Vitali said. “This is bad public policy.”

Wolf has 10 days to veto, sign the bill or allow it to pass into law without his signature.