Governor Wolf Celebrates New Coal Mine Opposed by Impacted Community Members, Hasn’t Joined US Climate Alliance
Jennerstown, PA - Today, as Governor Wolf joins Corsa Coal in Somerset County for the opening of the Acosta Mine in Jenners Township - a project touted by President Trump as he withdrew from the Paris Accord - Pennsylvania’s commitment to climate action remains uncertain.
As the Governor stands with the coal company, a group of concerned community members - organized by the Mountain Watershed Association, home of the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper - are holding a rally in opposition to the mine.
“Our message to Governor Wolf today is that Pennsylvania needs a transition to sustainable jobs based on tourism, mine reclamation, agriculture, clean energy, and energy efficiency,” said Ashley Funk, a community organizer with the Mountain Watershed Association. “We cannot continue to prop up the mining industry at the expense of residents living with the harms of extraction.”
Two such residents, Mike and Mary Jo Picklo, used to be able to walk onto their front porch and see the rolling hillsides of their community - but now all they see is the blast site of the mine. The Picklo family filed complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after the 61 blasts used to open up the mine released clouds of dust and dirt off the site and into their home, causing permanent damage from the vibrations. No action has been taken by Corsa Coal, and DEP dismissed these harms.
“There are kids all around this area. A few weeks ago, a group of kids were running around the mine pit - if they would have fallen in, they would’ve died. That’s how deep it is,” Mike Picklo stated, concerned about the lack of precautions taking place to protect local community members from the nearby mine.
In 2016, Corsa Coal also received a grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), a state-funded grant program for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.
“At a time when Pennsylvania is struggling to fund something as essential as the Safe Drinking Water Program, the Wolf Administration has invested $3,000,000 of state funding to help open this new deep mine,” said Joanne Kilgour, Director of the Sierra Club PA Chapter. “We cannot afford to subsidize the mining industry while our communities shoulder the cost and the harm.”
The opening of this new mine comes just after President Trump announced his plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, and was met with opposition and disapproval from US states, cities, companies, and community members throughout the country. While the Acosta mine will produce metallurgical coal that is likely to be exported to countries like China for steel production rather than for electricity generation, Governor Wolf's support of the project still raises questions about his commitment to state, national, and global action on climate change.
“In response to Donald Trump’s attack on the American people, state and local leaders have stepped up to reaffirm their commitment to lead on climate,” stated NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “Instead of building new fossil fuel infrastructure that locks us into a dirty energy future, the Keystone State should be building the clean infrastructure that will reduce costs, create more jobs and protect our environment.”
“Poll after poll shows that Pennsylvanians want action to reduce our climate change pollution, not increase it,” noted PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “And advocating for dirty energy projects touted by President Trump, who has become the Darth Vader in the fight against global warming, seems like poor political positioning.”
Residents across Pennsylvania have consistently expressed their support for action on climate change, with a majority of Pennsylvanians in favor of efforts to reduce carbon emissions such as through the Clean Power Plan.
“Pennsylvania’s energy policy built on gas and coal is radically out of step with the pulse of the state, as evidenced by the huge mobilization of our citizens following the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement," said Matthew Stepp, Director of Policy at PennFuture. "We are seeing a surge of excitement and commitment to clean energy, and the Governor needs to embrace it, and the jobs it is creating.”
“Governor Wolf needs to take action to bring lasting economic resources to our communities,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, “resources that will help rebuild our local economy for the long term, rather than the false promise of a propped up industry that won’t be here to help us clean up or support the workers when they stop profiting off our labor and our resources.”