A Suggestion with Merit
Washington PA Observer Reporter - Editorial
3 February 2013
It’s been more than seven years since Ryerson Station State Park’s
62-acre Duke Lake was drained after inspections by the state
Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of
Conservation and Natural Resources revealed expanding cracks in
the 45-year-old concrete dam.
Since then, the DCNR filed a claim against Consol Energy
suggesting the damage was caused by the company’s Bailey Mine,
which was engaged in longwall mining near the park.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, which
investigated the claim, determined the damage was caused by mining
and ordered Consol to restore the dam, and, not surprisingly,
Consol, which denied its activities caused the damage, appealed
DEP’s decision to the state Environmental Hearing Board, where the
case is scheduled for trial in May.
The last thing anyone wants to see is this contentious and
protracted issue becoming ever more mired in a legal morass.
What gives us hope this will not occur were comments made Jan. 26
at a public meeting at Waynesburg University held by attorney
Thomas Rutter, a mediator hired to negotiate a settlement in the
More than 40 people spoke about the importance of the lake to area
residents and the need for it to be restored. It was encouraging
that many of those who spoke did not use the forum to castigate
Consol but to tell the mediator how important the lake is to the
community and to area residents and that it should be restored no
matter who is at fault.
One speaker’s comments seemed to capture the tenor of the daylong
hearing. Greene County Commissioner Blair Zimmerman said, “That
was a destination for us as a family,” and that he frequently took
his children to the park. The lake’s restoration is long overdue,
Zimmerman said. “It’s our park and we want it back the way it
The Rev. Donald Wilson shared a similar sentiment but was more
pointed in his remarks. He said, “Too often, Greene County has
been viewed as a forgotten area, neglected, overlooked,
unimportant,” he said. “The way the dam sits now, that’s precisely
what it says.” Restoring the lake will help restore pride; people
will say ‘This is our area and we’re proud of it, we’re happy to
It’s easy to understand the community’s desire to see the dam
restored, but a different perspective came to light when Jim
Goroncy, a Consol miner, spoke. He said everyone wants the lake to
be restored for the recreational opportunities it offers the
community. But he also asked where the county would be without the
coal and natural gas industries, which provide jobs, a tax base
and business for local stores.
We would guess these were the types of comments Rutter wanted to
hear, especially if he anticipates heading off lengthy and
He explained his thinking: having Consol pay the full costs of
replacing the dam and, in return, they would be allowed to drill
for Marcellus Shale gas, not in the park, but from property the
company owns adjacent to park property.
The company also would donate property it now owns adjacent to the
park, about 560 acres, to the state to increase the total park
acreage, he said.
We think Rutter’s suggestion has a great deal of merit, yet we
also don’t think Consol will go quietly. Perhaps Rutter’s carrot
might be just what the coal company was waiting for. But if Consol
holds to its position that “we don’t believe (the damage was) mine
related,” then don’t expect to see bulldozers at Ryerson Station
State Park anytime soon.