On June 5, several staff members of the Mountain Watershed Association, a group of concerned Laurel Highlands citizens and one fellow from the Center for Coalfield Justice took to the state capitol steps to rally for an end to deep mining in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands.
Our group also presented a petition with over 320 signatures to state officials and to the PA Department of Environmental Protection, asking that environmental regulators reject the request for a permit renewal and underground mining expansion for the Rustic Ridge coal mine.
LCT Energy of Johnstown wants to add about 1,450 acres to its existing permit that allows the firm to mine coal on about 2,880 acres in Donegal Township and in Saltlick Township in Fayette County.
The proposal would extend the mine underneath the Pennsylvania Turnpike and reach as far north as the Stonehenge Lodge in Stahlstown. Given the rate of subsidence occurring from the currently operating Rustic Ridge I mine, residents fear an expansion would bring similar problems in this extremely sensitive rural area.
The Laurel Highlands are known as one of the top tourism destinations in Pennsylvania, with people traveling from far and wide to see the scenic beauty and engage in the outdoor recreation opportunities that the region has to offer. Concerned residents have been fighting LCT and its various mining operations since the initial Rustic Ridge Mine was first proposed. Some individuals have spent 15+ years trying to protect the mountains and waterways that they love and rely on.
On the steps of the capitol, community organizer Stacey Magda spoke at the podium, wielding a paddle dipped in the waters of the Youghiogheny and wrapped with a sign bearing the words of the Pennsylvania state constitution,
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
Next to speak at the podium were David and Barbara MacMillian, members of our Rustic Ridge committee. Jim Miller, another Laurel Highlands area resident and former MWA Board member, also spoke, urging our representatives and policymakers to heed our appeal on behalf of local homeowners.
Our crew marched a few blocks to the PA DEP headquarters, where they delivered a packet of information to a representative from the DEP.
The group then headed into the capitol building, where they delivered the petition to our Representatives Leslie Rossi, Eriv Davanzo, and Ryan Warner, as well as Senators Pat Stefano and Kim Ward.
We hope that our presence at the capitol made a splash that creates a ripple of change through the state government. Our representatives must recognize that our clean, pure mountain water and land are resources worth far more than the commercial value of the mineral under the surface.