Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Senate Committee Reports Out Bill Eliminating Mandatory Public Reporting On Mine Subsidence Damage Caused By Underground Coal Mining

On April 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out legislation-- Senate Bill 763 (Bartolotta-R-Washington)-- that would eliminate the mandated public report every five years on subsidence damage caused by underground coal mining in Pennsylvania.
Republicans supported the bill, Democrats opposed.
The bill also eliminates a specific direction to the Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the “the effects of deep mining on subsidence of surface structures and features and on water resources, including sources of public and private water supplies,” and replaces it with a generic “compliance with the requirements of this act” phrase.
DEP would still have to collect the data and analyze it, but actually compiling a report and submitting it to anyone or the public would be optional.
If a report is compiled by DEP, it would only be required to be submitted to the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees and not to the Governor, the General Assembly as a whole and to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council as is the case under existing law.
If passed, the new requirements would start in 2025.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for action.
In 1994, Act 54 was passed to amend the Act with compromise language worked out by a stakeholder group led by the Western PA Conservancy over several years to allow longwall underground coal mining in Pennsylvania if the industry accepted a “you break it, you fix it” requirement to repair subsidence damage to structures, water supplies and streams caused by this mining technique and underground coal mining generally.
Part of the compromise language was a requirement that every 5 years DEP was to prepare a report documenting the damage to structures, water supplies and streams caused by longwall and underground coal mining and submit the report to the Governor, General Assembly and DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council.
DEP released the latest Act 54 report on December 19 which again found 40 percent of the 86 miles of streams undermined by deep coal mining experienced multiple impacts such as loss of flow or pooling and on average their Total biological Score Declined significantly during the reporting period of 2013-2018.
Visit DEP’s Act 54 webpage for copies of the reports and more background.
[Posted: April 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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