The effects of coal mining on communities and the environment is what originally led to the formation of a coalition of grassroots groups and individuals called the “Tri-State Citizens Mining Network” in 1994 – the organization that is now CCJ. The people involved recognized the need to work together to build a strong voice in the coalfield community. This was shortly after Congress passed the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which created federal regulations on surface coal mining operations. In 2007, the Tri-State Citizens Mining Network reorganized into the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) and expanded to work on fossil fuel extraction and use generally, recognizing that our communities were not just impacted by coal mining but also oil and gas. To read a few words by one of our founders and an activist involved in passing SMCRA, Wyona Coleman, click here. As you will read in this blog, coal mining is still going strong today.
This blog and request was written by our Executive Director Veronica Coptis.
Imagine coming home from work to find a letter in your mailbox informing you that a mining company received a permit to extract coal deposits under your home. Imagine knowing that mining under your home means you could lose your drinking water supply; it could damage your home’s foundation; and, if you are a farmer, it could mean that you don’t have access to the water you need for your livelihood.
This is the reality over two hundred homeowners in Greene and Washington Counties are facing now, as three mines applied for permits to expand their operation by over 6,000 new acres. These community members are facing the challenge of trying to figure out how best to protect their homes, knowing regulations in Pennsylvania always favor the coal industry.
I remember when the coal waste dump was expanding next to my home and how powerless I felt trying to find information or to find out what my rights were. I do this work so others don’t have to feel alone in the fight to protect our homes.
It has been rare in my organizing history to see this many permits applied for simultaneously. We, at the Center for Coalfield Justice, drew out a plan to inform these community members about their rights and to connect them with each other so they can better understand and deploy their collective power.
What makes this plan ever more challenging (and expensive) is the absence of broadband and cell service in the area. Our plan, therefore, includes a return to old school outreach measures like direct mailers, phone banking, hosting community meetings, and knocking on people’s doors. Only if we reach out, inform, train, and organize can we prevent coal operators from taking advantage of the community.
But we need your support to reach out, organize, and help our community members fight for their homes, water supplies and farms.
As we have done for years, CCJ staff will help community members through these uncertain times. While building relationships with people, we will mobilize community members to become active members and volunteers advocating to improve regulations – so with the next coal mine expansions, residents will already know their power.
Below is the information on the coal mines that are expanding:
- Harvey Mine (permit #30121301)
- 3744 acres
- public comment deadline March 28
- Bailey Mine (permit #30841316)
- 685 acres
- public comment deadline April 5
- Enlow Fork Mine (permit# 30841317)
- 3088 acres
- public comment deadline April 2
To learn more:
Are you directly impacted by longwall mining? Is there proposed longwall mining infrastructure in your community? Contact us at 724-229-3550 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can support you.