DEP must recognize flaws in its mine permitting

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The comments by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary John Stefanko (“DEP Is Highly Regarded in Permitting of Mines,” July 26 letters) regarding Citizens Coal Council’s report “The Illusion of Environmental Protection” highlight one more element in the growing list of problems with DEP’s review of coal mine projects: The agency is clearly unwilling to accept, or even recognize, constructive criticism that could help improve the coal mine permitting process.

Despite DEP having never finished its review of the permit application, it was always our intention to complete our review of the Foundation Mine application and publish our report before any permit decision was made. Our goal was to provide DEP with the benefit of independent and professional technical input to supplement its chronically underfunded regulatory program.

The Foundation Mine is just like the many longwall mine applications that have been reviewed in the last few years, and approved by DEP, despite major deficiencies that can and do have significant impacts on Pennsylvania’s waters.

DEP’s unwillingness to recognize fundamental flaws in its permitting process does a great disservice to the residents and environment of Pennsylvania. The most crucial problem that our latest report seeks to shed light on is the huge disconnect between what commonwealth laws and regulations say about environmental protection and what actually is being required by DEP and provided in mine permit applications.

Although the deputy secretary contends that both the Post-Gazette and Citizens Coal Council are irresponsible for “promoting” this report, we simply want to see a balanced and responsible permitting process that fulfills the core intent of DEP’s mission.

Executive Director
Citizens Coal Council

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