Amerikohl’s Revtai GFCC coal mine would leave community without standard state protections

Community  members pack into a room at the Revtai hearing

Community members pack into the Saltlick Municipal Building for the hearing on the proposed Revtai GFCC.

On Wednesday, December 12th, over 35 people packed the room in the Saltlick Township Municipal Building for the public hearing on Amerikohl’s proposed Revtai Government Financed Construction Contract (GFCC). The project would include a surface mine in Melcroft, PA in Fayette County just hundreds of feet away from homes, farms, and streams – all in an area that is recovering from a legacy of coal mining. Over a dozen of the people in attendance were community members who live less than a mile from the proposed project.  They all expressed concerns with how Revtai GFCC could impact their water, land, and quality of life.

The GFCC program was created by the state in order to incentivise coal companies to reclaim abandoned mine sites that might otherwise never be addressed. The ‘incentive’ took the form of heavy government financial subsidies for the project and a promise that the coal company could keep and sell any coal which was encountered “incidentally” as a result of the reclamation. The Revtai project seems an incongruent fit for the proposed work since the site is already relatively stable and a large amount of coal is planned to be removed.

Nearby community members expressed that nature has already done most of the work of reclamation. The abandoned highwalls and surrounding woods are overgrown with trees and vegetation. Neighbors who regularly recreate in the area showed pictures of a beautiful waterfall that now runs over part of the highwall, which transforms into a wall of icicles in the winter months.

According to DEP, when the  GFCC program was initially introduced in the 1990’s it included  payments from the governments to mining companies to cover costs to reclaim sites. Now, companies must post a bond for the work and cover their own costs of the program – in return, they will make money off of the reclaimed coal and benefit from an expedited permitting process.

In the case of the Revtai GFCC, David Maxwell from Amerikohl admitted, “we’re not doing this out of the goodness of our hearts – we want to make some money out of this too.” He explained that Amerikohl has been interested in mining the site for a long time but the appropriate leases were not available until recently. He then told the meeting participants that Amerikohl chose to apply for the project under the GFCC program because they wanted to receive their permits more quickly in order to make the most profits possible from the metallurgical coal they intend to mine.

So while, in essence, the Revtai GFCC will require all the same construction and operation procedures as a regular surface mine – included a predicted 4-5 months of weekly blasting through rock – nearby residents are not guaranteed the same protections. For instance, a GFCC does not require the mining company to conduct pre-mining and pre-blast surveys of nearby homes. In the case of the Revtai GFCC, DEP is holding Amerikohl to a higher standard and requiring them to conduct pre-blast surveys for property owners within 1000 feet of blasting. However, in the case that a homeowner experiences property damage, DEP stated “we at DEP have no authority to compel the company to fix anything.” In addition, unlike with normal mining procedures, if a nearby family were to lose their water as a result of the mining or blasting activity, then Amerikohl would not be obligated to replace their supply.

At the hearing, nearby residents explained that existing discharges are already pervasive in the area, and they expressed concerns that additional mining could make these discharges worse. “I can show you up and down the hollow that red water is already coming through,” said Ronald Ritenour who owns a farm beside the property and the nearby abandoned Melcroft #2 mine. Residents were also concerned about: losing spring water they depend upon for personal and agricultural uses, increased truck traffic across the bridge at the intersection of Albright and Melcroft Roads, the impacts of blasting, and the disruption of an old cemetery that exists in the proposed mining area. Although the project is still in the permitting stages, they also stated that trees are already being cut and hauled away from the site.

Mountain Watershed Association presented studies from an expert hydrologist and mining engineer that pointed out several problematic issues in the permit, including how the permit area overlaps with the abandoned Melcroft #1 mine. Mountain Watershed Association noted that the Revtai GFCC is taking place in a predominately low-income area that is proposed to be designated as an Environmental Justice Area by DEP. As an Environmental Justice Area, Amerikohl should be held to a higher standard in engaging nearby residents to keep them informed about their . However, because the project is being proposed as a GFCC, Amerikohl was not required to notify any nearby residents – they only found out about the project and the hearing because MWA notified them.

Mountain Watershed Association will continue working with nearby residents in order to help protect them from the impacts of Revtai GFCC, and we will continue to engage in the permitting process for the project. If anyone has questions or concerned, please reach out to Ashley at or 724-455-4200×6#.

DEP will continue accepting comments on the proposed Revtai GFCC until December 27th. Those who would like to make a comment can mail their comment to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, District Mining Operations, 131 Broadview Road, New Stanton, PA 15672. Written submittals must contain the following:

  • Name, address and telephone number of the person submitting the comments.
  • Identification of the proposed draft NPDES Permit No. (PA0278271).
  • Concise statements regarding the relevancy of the information or objections to issuance of the NPDES Permit.