Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Highlights Benefits, Lower Rates of Mine Subsidence Insurance Coverage

January 14, 2009

More Than One Million Homes in PA Sit Atop Abandoned Underground Mines

BELLE VERNON, Pa., Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Home and business owners throughout Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal and clay-mining region will find it easier to protect their properties now that mine subsidence insurance premium rates have decreased, acting Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today.

Hanger joined local officials for a visit to Belle Vernon, Westmoreland County, where mine subsidence damaged a church and neighboring home in 2004.

“The Department of Environmental Protection has responded to thousands of abandoned mine subsidence events throughout western Pennsylvania that have caused millions of dollars in damage to public and private property over the past 50 years,” Hanger said. “Luckily, in this instance, the church and the neighboring property owner had mine subsidence insurance policies and were able quickly to make repairs and return to life as normal. That’s the peace of mind mine subsidence insurance can offer.

“Now, with our new, lower rates and other program improvements, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to obtain that level of reassurance. There is no reason why home and business owners should not insure their property against the potential catastrophic damage caused by mine subsidence.”

The Char-Belle Free Methodist Church was damaged when abandoned mine workings approximately 50 feet underground collapsed in August 2004. The mine had been abandoned by the Pittsburgh Coal Co. in the 1920s.

The federal Office of Surface Mining injected grout into the mine void as part of an emergency stabilization project shortly after the collapse to prevent further subsidence.

Hanger stressed that because so many underground mine voids exist throughout Pennsylvania, more people should consider obtaining this coverage, which can be applied to many types of properties.

“The department estimates that 1 million homes and businesses sit atop abandoned underground mines, yet most standard homeowner policies do not cover damage caused by mine subsidence,” Hanger said. “We have expanded available coverage to include sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls, in-ground pools and other types of property and now give property owners the option to purchase mine subsidence insurance by phone, through their local insurance agent or online with a credit card.”

Pennsylvania’s Mine Subsidence Insurance program is a non-profit fund administered by DEP that provides coverage of up to $250,000 for homes, businesses and attached structures in the event of subsidence from abandoned coal and clay mines. Effective Jan. 1, annual premiums for residential and commercial mine subsidence insurance coverage decreased by 25 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

The average residential policy is valued at $130,000 at an annual cost of $85, or a little more than $7 per month. A 10 percent discount is also offered to persons 65 years of age and older for residential policies.

The Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund paid out more than $1.3 million for 29 claims during the past fiscal year and has settled more than $23 million in claims since the fund was created in 1961. In the bituminous region which includes much of western Pennsylvania, the fund has paid more than $18 million for nearly 600 claims during that period.

Property owners can apply for mine subsidence insurance directly from DEP by phone at 800-922-1678 or online at www.pamsi.org. The Web site contains information on subsidence issues and insurance program coverage.

    CONTACT: Helen Humphreys
    (412) 442-4183
    (412) 417-7943 (cell)

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Source: newswire

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