Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The state Senate this week passed a bill that would allow a mining company to knowingly damage streams. Senate Bill 624 creates an exemption to an 80-year-old law protecting streams and water supplies. Environmental groups vigorously opposed the bill.

According to Joanne Kilgour, the state director of Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter, SB 624 would apply retroactively to pending litigation in the Environmental Hearings Board over a permit for longwall coal mining that would destroy streams in Ryerson Station State Park.

“It would also create what we think would amount to an unconstitutional special law, carving out an exemption to the Clean Streams Law just for the underground mining industry,” she says.

Bill sponsors say the measure would require that mining companies restore damaged streams in the future. The House could decide to take up the measure when it returns next week.

Kilgour notes that the Senate vote to approve SB 624 was far from unanimous.

“There was bipartisan opposition to the bill, and we were able to get to a number that would withstand the governor’s veto,” she adds.

Gov. Tom Wolf also has expressed opposition to the bill.