Community Comes Together to Heal and Rally Forward from Mining Impacts to Polen Run in the Park

Posted May 14, 2018, by Veronica Coptis


Last month the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (“EHB”) denied the Center for Coalfield Justice’s and Sierra Club’s petition for supersedeas to protect Polen Run within Ryerson Station Park from significant harm caused by longwall mining. We are, of course, very disappointed by the decision. The following weekend, our community came together to remember Ryerson as it once was and rally together to continue to invest in the Park moving forward.

A supersedeas is an extraordinary remedy and will not be granted absent a clear demonstration of need. The burden of proving that a supersedeas should be granted falls squarely on the petitioner – CCJ and Sierra Club in this case. It is important to remember that a ruling on a supersedeas is merely a prediction, based on limited evidence and a shortened time frame for consideration, of who is likely to ultimately prevail. In the end, the determination of whether or not to grant a petition for supersedeas is at the discretion of the EHB based on a balancing of the factors it considers in reaching that decision.

The EHB agreed with us that Polen Run within Ryerson Station State Park was likely to suffer an impact from longwall mining. However, in the end, the Board found that it was a “close call” and explained, “given the high burden that must be met in order to grant a supersedeas, where the evidence comes down to a close call we cannot find that the burden has been met.” In its decision, the EHB acknowledged the practical burdens imposed on CCJ and Sierra Club in a supersedeas hearing where we have not had the benefit of discovery and where we are required to prepare our case under significant time constraints. The Board further explained: “We note, of course, that if this case proceeds to a hearing on the merits additional evidence may be available regarding the impact of mining on Polen Run.

Finally, the EHB acknowledged the importance of our permit appeal when it stated:

“We acknowledge the important public service undertaken by the Appellants in appealing the issuance of Permit Revision 210 and the previous permit revisions that involve mining under Ryerson Station State Park. Ryerson Station State Park is the only state park in Greene County, and, pursuant to Article I, § 27, the public has a right to the preservation of its natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values…Appellants’ appeal raises important public issues and ensures that the Department fulfills its duties under Article I, § 27. Those duties and obligations also extend to this Board and to the appellate courts.”

We will be monitoring the impacts of longwall mining to the streams throughout the rest of the year and plan to continue our appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board. If you’d like to help us monitor Ryerson Station State Park while mining is ongoing, please contact us.   

Our community has been sacrificing their water, homes, and public resources to longwall mining around Ryerson for over a decade. We are grateful and encouraged by the overwhelming support we have received and the continued interest in defending our rights to clean water and healthy communities.    

Please contact us if you’d like to know more about the revisioning of Ryerson Station State Park or are interested in volunteering for our DRYerson Festival on June 30th.


  • Veronica Coptis

    Veronica Coptis joined the CCJ staff in March 2013 as a Community Organizer and is now serving as the Executive Director. She grew up in western Greene County near the Bailey Mine Complex and currently lives in the eastern part of the county. Before joining the CCJ staff, Veronica served on the Board of Directors for CCJ and organized with Mountain Watershed Association. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University. She enjoys hiking and geocaching at Ryerson State Park and other areas around Greene County with her husband and daughters. Read more about Veronica in a New Yorker Magazine profile at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/03/the-future-of-coal-country. Contact Veronica at veronica@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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