The PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC , out of Wyomissing, PA has awarded EPCAMR a $5000 grant through the Community Connector Grant Program based on our recent application for funding to conduct a Wyoming Valley Underground Mine Mapping Education and Outreach Program developed by the EPCAMR Executive Director, Robert Hughes, for local governments and municipalities with a focus on those that are downstream of the proposed pipeline project. EPCAMR is the only regional environmental organization in Luzerne County this round to receive funding. Robert went on to emphasize, “there is a great need for local governments to have their own sets of maps of the historic surface and underground mine maps that were produced by the mining companies of the past, public organizations, and private landholders that have acquired anthracite holdings over the last hundred plus years. Many of these smaller local governmental entities don’t have their own sets of maps to refer to when it comes to planning projects, economic redevelopment projects, public infrastructure projects, siting for new buildings, or reclamation of former mining sites for industrial, commercial, or other public or private investment projects.
EPCAMR intends to utilize these funds to spend the necessary staff time and printing costs on prioritizing the production of sets of mine maps for each of the municipalities that are within the Anthracite Coal measures from Wyoming Borough, W. Wyoming Borough, on the West Side and Jenkins Township, Plains Township on the East Side of the Susquehanna River south to Mocanaqua and Shickshinny Borough, which are basically the locations of the southern tip, geologically, of the Northern Anthracite Coalfields. Robert would like to see if there are a few municipalities that might want to host a few regional workshops at municipal locations that might be central to the Wyoming Valley and Southern Wyoming Valley to more efficiently conduct the underground mine map outreach and educational component of the grant. EPCAMR will be following up shortly with some possible partners where we can host a few meetings.
“The EPCAMR Staff are technically capable and highly skilled in reading, interpreting, and understanding the geology and hydrogeology of the region’s surface and underground mine maps and we want to continue be a technical resource provider to the public and to our local governments that we partner with on a multitude of other environmental conservation projects such as illegal dump site cleanups, stream restoration projects, AMD treatment, tree plantings, streamside cleanups, watershed assessements, and other environmental education programs and projects throughout the region. We also have the printing capabilities to produce maps that will be large enough to be able to review reasonably well by municipal and community leaders.” emphasized Robert.
Large maps are available for review either at the Pittsburgh’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Office where many maps were transferred to following the closure of the Wilkes-Barre Regional Office several years ago, at the Wilkes-Barre NE regional office of the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s (PA DEP) Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, or the PA DEP Regional District Mining Office, Bureau of Deep Mine Safety, Pottsville, PA. However, the large majority of these maps due to their condition, size, continual need by those State agencies where they reside for active mining and abandoned mine reclamation projects generally have to stay within those offices.
EPCAMR has been able to acquire a large majority of those OSM Folio Maps in digital format over the last few years and are still actively acquiring more maps under a 3 year grant agreement from the PA DEP Mine Subsidence Insurance Program to scan, catalogue, inventory, geo-reference, and digitize them for the Commonwealth of PA and use by the public. Thousands of those maps, upwards of nearly 10,000 have already been approved by the PA DEP to be posted to the PA Mine Map Atlas. However, our scope of work requires us to methodically take certain map collections based on specific locations of the maps from the PA DEP. This smaller grant will allow us to focus in on some of the existing maps that we may have already acquired and find the actual elevations to certain coal measures and water levels within the underground mine pools specifically for the Wyoming Valley, building on some initial work already funded by the PA DEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission completed by EPCAMR over the last several years. Many municipalities just do not have the staffing, expertise, funding, printing capabilities, or travel funds to get to these locations to acquire the necessary maps they may be looking for when planning efforts or the efforts of others come to them seeking information about the underground or surface resources related to past mining.
EPCAMR Staff are also entering various data into the PA Historic Underground Mine Map Inventory System (PHUMMIS). This database contains information relevant to past and present underground mining within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including, but not limited to, maps, indices, locations of mines, and other pertinent data contained in various collections held or obtained by the PA DEP Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations. The information contained in this database has been compiled from various sources, and as a result, the Department nor EPCAMR cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or veracity of the information in the database or the information that is generated by a search of the database by a user. The Department and EPCAMR assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or veracity of information contained in the database. The Department and EPCAMR disclaims any responsibility for any actions, or the lack thereof, taken in reliance on the information contained in the database. Users agree that the Department and EPCAMR, its employees, officers, agents, or contractors will not be liable for any damages or losses of any kind resulting directly or indirectly from the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in the database.
EPCAMR is an advocate for the environment and protection of land and water resources that have been adversely affected by past mining practices throughout Northeastern and Northcentral PA. During the grant review process, the Selection Committee identified a number of strengths in our proposal. Although EPCAMR has been an advocate against the construction of the pipeline in the area that had originally been chosen, due to the lack of knowledge or study in that area of the underground mining conditions, given our Valley’s storied past mining and flooding history, PennEast still chose to fund EPCAMR’s work based on it’s merit to provide valuable technical assistance to the downstream communities in the Wyoming Valley.
“This funding couldn’t have come at a better time for EPCAMR, when funds are getting harder and harder to come by to be able to provide these valuable technical services to our communities and local governments that are in need of this type of information to make better land use and planning decisions. The EPCAMR Staff are committed to continuing to seek funds from all sources that will allow us to work in the collective best interests of the public. We’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years and we got our start right here in the Wyoming Valley in June of 1995 in the former Sturdevant Hall on the campus of Wilkes University. June 23, 2015, is a date that is all too well known by all residents of the Wyoming Valley, and will not only be a constant reminder of the historic Agnes Flood of 1972, that swept through the Wyoming Valley, 43 years ago, bring the Susquehanna River to nearly 44′ flooding the entire Valley. We have to consider the serious potential risk of another such 100 year flood or even more frequent floods in this Valley when ever any structures or infrastructure is being considered as a crossing over or under the Susquehanna River.” Robert emphasized fervently.
The completed work and sets of maps that will be provided to local municipalities based on available historic mining maps, will ultimately provide PennEast with geological and hydrogeologic conditions downstream and in the area of the proposed pipeline crossing irregardless of the status of the proposed pipeline project in the Wyoming Valley that is currently going through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review process. EPCAMR has been very upfront with PennEast in our early communications with them at the public hearing and in our comments to FERC that they may be hard pressed to find a legitimate crossing that is safe, in terms of the risk, for placement of the 36-42″ transmission line that they are proposing to construct to cross the River and find it’s way up to Dallas Township, PA. “Now, EPCAMR has some means of spending some time directly on researching the conditions of the underground mine workings in the Wyoming and Southern Wyoming Valley so that we can make a determination as to what literally lies beneath our feet where we all live, work, play, and recreate in our area.” explained Robert.
Alisa E. Harris, Head of Government and Community Affairs mentioned in her award letter to EPCAMR that “the PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC, is pleased to support your efforts and that we look forward to building a strong partnership to advancing our mutual commitment to environment and energy education. Community engagement is important to PennEast. The Community Connector Grant Program is another excellent opportunity for us to support the communities where we operate and where our employees make their home.” PennEast’s press release can be found here.