DEP Sides with MWA to Protect Coalfield Residents

Last week, in response to our advocacy efforts alongside the Center for Coalfield Justice, the Department of Environmental Protection issued guidance that called on coal operators to protect residents during pre and post-mining surveys in light of the current COVID-19 epidemic. 

While the epidemic caused shutdowns across the state, coal mining operations in Pennsylvania have been proceeding at full speed after being deemed an essential business. However, as part of those operations, mine operators had also been continuing with their pre-mining surveys. These surveys require inspectors, and sometimes mine company officials, to enter people’s homes for extended periods of time, putting residents at risk. Several residents in the footprint of LCT’s Rustic Ridge mine felt pressured into moving forward with their pre-mining surveys for fear of losing their right to hold the coal company liable for any damages to their property or water supplies. In one instance, a mine company official entered a family’s home with no masks, gloves, or protective equipment.

After we demanded that action be taken, DEP issued guidance to protect coalfield residents in Pennsylvania. Until statewide shutdown orders are lifted, coal mine operators will need to adhere to the guidelines issued by DEP. These guidelines require that: 

  • Operators are only to conduct pre-mining surveys that are essential for the next 6 months of mining operations. 
  • If a survey is deemed essential, then operators must keep the number of individuals participating to a minimum. 
  • All individuals present for the survey must wear personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves; keep a safe distance; and disinfect surfaces.

DEP also stated that if any impacted residents have further concerns about pre or post-mining surveys, then they should contact the local district mining office for help in resolving the issue. If any resident in the footprint of the Rustic Ridge Mine has questions about whether their property falls within the 6-month mining map, they can contact Ashley at or 724-455-4200×6#.