Lawsuit filed over coal ash disposal site in Pennsylvania

The Citizens Coal Council said June 26 that residents living near the LaBelle Refuse Site, a coal ash dump located in Luzerne Township, Pa., are going to court over allegedly illegal disposal of coal ash and treatment of coal mine waste.

The Citizens Coal Council (CCC) filed a legal complaint against Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. (MCC) on June 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The complaint alleges that MCC is violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and state laws designed to protect rivers and streams and reduce fugitive particulate matter air pollution.

CCC Executive Director Aimee Erickson said: “Our members live every day with MCC’s coal ash pollution and the harm it is inflicting on the local waters. Our members used to hunt deer near the Refuse Site and fish along the Monongahela River and local tributaries, but that’s out of the question now because of fears that both deer and fish have been contaminated.”

The lawsuit said that this is a 506.7-acre site, of which 361.5 acres are currently affected, or are planned to be affected, by coal refuse disposal. The site contains two coal waste areas filled with coal refuse slurry that together contain about 40 million tons of refuse. MCC is disposing of coal ash on top of these piles for the purpose of “reclaiming” the site, the suit said. The site receives about 200,000 tons per year of coal ash from coal-fired power plants in southwest Pennsylvania, the suit added.

Canestrale attorney William Gorton III said the lawsuit sensationalizes the situation at the LaBelle site, which he described as a reclamation project, said a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There’s much more to the story,” Gorton said in the report. “Environmentalists have been successful in sensationalizing what’s happening here.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.