Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess has announced a new web page that, for the first time, will track unresolved cases of structure damage and water-supply loss from underground bituminous coal mining operations.
The page can be accessed through the PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us, PA Keyword: "Subsidence Cases."
"We believe that making information on structural damage and water-loss cases available to the public will be an incentive for individuals and coal companies to resolve these cases in a faster and fairer way," Hess said. "We also believe this will provide good information to help us and others evaluate the effectiveness of our current laws governing how claims of damage and water loss are handled.
"During my visit to coal-mining areas last August, I saw first-hand the damage underground mining can cause and the efforts being made by coal companies to repair that damage and restore water loss at their expense. Since then, we have taken a number of steps to improve the way we protect streams and handle cases of damage and water loss. This is one more step in that process."
The new web page will be updated monthly. It lists information for all active and recently active mines in the bituminous coal fields where coal operators are responsible for paying for structural damage, replacing water loss or buying the property that has been damaged.
It will include the location of each case by the name of the mine, county and municipality, along with the date it was reported to DEP and the current status.
The cases are identified by number, not the individual property owners, to comply with privacy-law requirements.
Unresolved cases are those where the mining company and property owner have not agreed on the steps needed to repair damage or replace water supplies, compensation for the subsidence damage, or where property owners are awaiting permanent repairs or water replacement.
The web page includes both formal claims filed with DEP by the property owner to resolve structural damage and water loss and cases where formal claims have not been filed.
A deadline date also is included by which structural damage or water loss should be resolved by the mine operator under state law. Where measures are pending to satisfy this requirement, they will be noted in the current status of the case. When cases are settled they will be dropped from the list.
The web page currently lists cases associated with 23 underground bituminous mines -- 8 longwall operations and 15 room-and-pillar operations.
For the longwall mines, which have undermined 2,144 properties since the effective date of Act 54 of 1994, there are 139 cases pending resolution. For the room-and-pillar mines, which have undermined 973 properties during the same period, 75 cases have resolutions pending. The posted information is current as of July 1.
For more information on the status of individual cases, contact DEP's Surface Subsidence Agent Program at 1-800-922-1678.