Wolf allows special-interest coal mining bill to become law

HARRISBURG, July 22 – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf allowed S.B. 624 to become law Friday. 

The new law reduces protections to streams where coal companies seek to mine underneath them and interferes with pending litigation, said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery.

The bill passed both the Pennsylvania House and Senate and was presented to the governor on July 11.  He had until Friday to either sign it, veto it or let it become law by his inaction.

“This is a triumph of special-interest group influence over good environmental policy,” Vitali said “The law is also unconstitutional.”

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, Consol Energy, in one particular location, Ryerson Station State Park, Vitali said. Introduced by Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, the bill directly affects 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 law 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 new law reduces protections afforded to other streams where coal companies seek to conduct longwall mining operations underneath them,” Vitali said.

Vitali said he plans to participate in legal action challenging the constitutionality of this law.