Dam problem getting Consol in hot water

ENVIRONMENTAL cooperatives in southeast Pennsylvania are seeking to find out if longwall mining by a Consol Energy operation is to blame for the failure of a dam.

Donna Schmidt

The structure developed a crack in July of 2005 at the 52-acre Ronald J Duke Lake in Ryerson State Park, and was later completely drained by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It still remains dry, according to local newspaper the Herald-Standard.

Earlier this year, the group filed suit with the county court against Consol, claiming the operator is at fault for the damage. Both its Enlow Fork and Bailey mines are active in the area, and the coal being produced from a longwall face is likely the root, the group told the paper.

“We notified Consol that we intend to sue them in relation to the situation at Ryerson Station State Park,” DCNR press secretary Christina Novak said. However, because of the pending litigation, no information is being publicly released.

“We are in discussions with the DCNR on their action to give us a notice to sue," said Consol public relations director Joe Cerenzia.

“We are in discussion with them over the situation at Duke Lake and Ryerson Station State Park [and] a potential resolution based on whatever evidence they present to us.”

Neither party was able to report to the Herald-Standard if the cause of the damage has been determined.

James Kleissler, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Coalfield Justice, said a lawsuit is not a good reason to withhold the information.

“There's no real benefit in withholding it from the public,” Kleissler said. “Releasing it to the public would not prevent the DCNR from proceeding with litigation against Consol. It would have to give up its discovery in litigation anyway."

The groups seeking further information are frustrated with its non-disclosure, but more so that the DCNR and Consol are in talks to discuss a solution.

“Pennsylvania's public land agencies are charged with serving the public good, not the private desires of coal corporations,” Center for Coalfield Justice board member Phil Coleman told the news outlet.

“Entering private negotiations with Consol Coal before fulfilling the DCNR's responsibility to inform the public undermines the public trust [in] our State Government.”

Mountain Watershed Association executive director Bev Braverman added: “The loss of the public asset of Duke Lake was not the result of coincidence. The DCNR has compiled a report, but has entered into private negotiations with the coal corporation while keeping their findings hidden from public view.”

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