Environmental Protection

DEP, PennFuture Halt Strip Mining Permit

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) praised the recent decision by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to uphold the action by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny a permit to PDG Land Development to strip mine Hays Woods, one of Pittsburgh's largest intact green spaces.

The developer had proposed to dump rocks removed in the mining process into the valleys, burying and destroying 8,000 feet of streams in the process. PennFuture had filed objections to the permit, a motion for summary judgment of its own seeking a dismissal of PDG's appeal, and had participated in a broad-based citizen coalition to protect the 613-acre wooded, hilly, undeveloped site.

"Today's decision is crystal clear," said Heather Sage, vice president of PennFuture. "No mining operation can legally harm streams in Pennsylvania. Period. And the Hays Woods strip mining project cannot go forward. This is a great victory, protecting a true oasis of green and home to abundant and healthy wildlife in the heart of the city.

Hays Woods is located within a highly urbanized, densely populated area. The property was deep mined at the turn of the century, but remained largely untouched throughout the past 100 years.

When plans for the project were introduced, the site was characterized by the developer as an ecological disaster and touted as everything from brownfield redevelopment to classic in-fill development. Scrutiny revealed that while previous mining activities had resulted in some ecological impacts (such as acid mine pollution in the streams), the property is really a haven for wildlife. Area residents expressed concerns about traffic, negative economic impacts on neighboring communities, possible blasting damage to homes, flooding in the Streets Run watershed (which already experiences heavy, repeated flooding), dust pollution and its impacts on human health, and the loss of wildlife habitat and Pittsburgh's last and largest undeveloped green space.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998.

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