Steven Sunshine
Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Center for Public Integrity’s year-long investigation into the social and environmental impacts of longwall mining centered on hundreds of pages of documents obtained from government sources, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; legal agreements between coal companies and property owners; environmental studies; landowner letters; and federal and state records requests. The library features key documents exemplifying key people or issues in each of the project’s magazine articles.

The library for Longwall, Part One, includes the following records:

1. A Notice of Intent to Mine — A typical Notice of Intent to Mine is sent by a coal company to landowners whose properties it will undermine informing them of their legal rights under Act 54. Here, Consol Energy’s subsidiary, Mine 84, sent the notice to John and Cynthia McGinnis, of Washington, Pennsylvania.

2. Official Notes on Stream Damage — These are the notes on record in a district mining office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) documenting an agency investigation into the de-watering of Tributary #32596, dubbed “Kim Jones Trib.” Kim Jones reported that her stream had disappeared after Consol’s Bailey Mine and its longwall machine went underneath her farm in 2004.

3. State Investigation into Longwall Damages — These DEP documents outline the agency’s investigation into structural and water damages on the John McGinnis property, post-longwall. They include DEP’s order to Consol to pay McGinnis $506,041 for structural damages only, as well as his appeal of DEP’s finding that the mining did not destroy his pond.

4. A Mining Violation — Here’s a typical violation issued by DEP against Consol for failing to abide by state mining regulations; in this case, it’s for not reporting damage complaints made by John McGinnis to the DEP, as required by law.

5. A Pre-Mining Agreement — A typical pre-mining agreement that coal companies often offer to landowners before longwall mining — and its guaranteed subsidence. Here, Mine 84 has entered into the pact with Aimee Erickson, of Washington, Pennsylvania.

6. Typical Legal Tactics — One hardball tactic used by coal companies against landowners seeking recompense for longwall damages is to drag them into court. These records show how one mine sued Ed and Ellen Walker (whose real names and other identifying information are redacted because they spoke to the Center on condition of anonymity) to force them to accept nominal compensation; the records reveal settlement terms the couple would eventually accept, as well as a judicial order dismissing the mine’s claims.

7. A Letter to the Editor — One letter to the editor written by Scott Finch, a supervisor of Morris Township, who has criticized state lawmakers for being in the pockets of the coal industry and for the destruction caused by longwall mining.

8. A Buyout Agreement — A typical buyout agreement wherein coal companies often purchase an undermined plot from a landowner for 15 percent of its appraised value. Here, Consol’s Dilworth Mine bought the historic house of Rebecca Foley for $368,000 in 1999. The pact featured an unusual option enabling Foley to buy back her destroyed home “in an as-is physical condition.”

9. DEP Water Pollution Tests — These documents from DEP to Fred and Becky Ricker of Washington, Pennsylvania, reveal that water supplied by Mine 84 to the couple exceeds safe limits for “dissolved solids, chloride, and total coliform.” The Rickers lost their natural water supply after the arrival of Mine 84’s longwall machine in 2002.

10. DEP Water Loss Compensation — Documents from DEP show the agency-brokered compensation from Bailey Mine to Kim Jones in exchange for taking her natural well and replacing it with a public-water line. Bailey Mine proposed to pay Jones $345.97 a year over 20 years, even though her annual city water bill is $542.

The library for Longwall, Part Two, includes the following records:

1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Investigations — Here are records from the USFWS showing its field investigations on 131 tributaries overlying eight longwall mines in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2000. This unpublished data lists streams with “subsided reaches” and “impaired flow,” likely caused by the longwalling.

2. DEP Consent Order — A consent order and agreement from DEP to Consol’s Bailey Mine for de-watering a stretch of Tributary #32596, otherwise known as the “Kim Jones Trib.” It requires Consol to perform “stream restoration activities” to return the run to a pre-mining condition.

3. USFSW Stream Study — An unpublished 2001 study by the USFSW on effects of longwall mining on streams. FWS provided the Center for Public Integrity with a June 2003 draft, but this latest version, dated August 2004, was obtained by the Center for Coalfield Justice.

4. Biologist Ben Stout’s Stream Studies — A 2002 study by Wheeling Jesuit University biologist Ben Stout on effects of longwall mining on “headwater” streams, as well as the results from his 2004 follow up.

5. DEP Letter on Longwall Report — Here’s a letter from former DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty to the Center for Coalfield Justice explaining why the agency will not complete its five-year report on impacts of longwall mining before the reporting period, ending in 2008, as is required by law.

6. DEP Consent Order — A consent order and agreement from DEP to Consol’s Mine 84 for de-watering 1,000 feet of Brush Run and for “causing a fish kill.” The pact follows Consol’s request for more time to remediate the stream.

7. DEP Correspondence on Duke Lake — Internal communication obtained by the Center through a public-records request between the DEP’s District Mining Office and its Dam Safety Division on the cracks in a dam at Ryerson Station State Park, which led to the draining of Duke Lake. At the time, records show, Bailey Mine’s longwall machine was moving beneath the park.

8. Geological Reports on Ryerson Dam — The initial reports sent by the geological firm Gannett Fleming to DEP’s Dam Safety Division that outline damage to Ryerson dam and possible causes, including longwall mining. Records feature the firm’s plan for investigating the reason for the dam cracks, as well as minutes of the first government briefings on the matter.

9. DEP Mine-Safety Inspection Reports — Inspection reports obtained by the Center through a public-records request from DEP’s Bureau of Deep Mine Safety showing that Bailey Mine’s active sections were “damp to wet” during much of 2005, especially in months leading up to the cracks in Ryerson dam.

10. Federal Mine-Safety Inspection Reports — Inspection reports obtained by the Center from the U.S. Mine Health and Safety Administration (MHSA) showing repeated “pooling” problems in Bailey Mine in April and July 2005, when park personnel spotted cracks in Ryerson dam. Some reports note the “significant and substantial” water problems then.

Help support this work

Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.