That’s the message that protesters from western Pennsylvania had for the Department of Environmental Protection.
The group of demonstrators, collectively known as Mountain Watershed Association, gathered at the Capitol on Monday to ask state officials at DEP, lawmakers, and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro to reform coal mining permits to match the rights of Pennsylvanians afforded to them by the state Constitution.
“The current coal mining regulations in Pennsylvania are woefully out of date and failed to protect Pennsylvania residents’ constitutional rights to clean air, clean water, and the enjoyment of natural resources,” Barbara McMillan, a Westmoreland County resident, said.
Under Section 27 of the state Constitution, Pennsylvanians are guaranteed the right to clean air, clean water, and the preservation of natural resources.
Specifically, the governing document reads:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
It’s those rights that the group believes are being infringed upon by mining companies, particularly the Johnstown-based LCT Energy LP, which they say has contaminated residents’ drinking water and is harming the Laurel Highlands’ tourism industry.
LCT Energy LP is proposing an additional 4,200-acre expansion of its Rustic Ridge Mine in Donegal Township in Westmoreland County.
In response to the requested expansion, the group said it would like to see the DEP impose regulations that more closely reflect the guarantees of the state constitution.
“We are asking the DEP to tighten up, in fact rewrite, the permitting regulations for coal mining in the state,” McMillan said.
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