Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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August 2009
Contents

Floods ... Again
OVEC Organizer Wins International Recognition with Green Nobel
JOBS and Energy Answers for Our WV Mountain Communities
Picnic for Green JOBS
MTR Mining Equipment Taken Off Gauley Mountain For Now
Board Adds Conditions to Disputed Fayette County Mine Permit
Lets Make Sure the Transition to a Clean, Green Energy Future in WV is a Peaceful One
Calling All Potential New OVEC Board of Directors Members!
Congress Doesnt Always Want to Come CLEAN
The CLEAN Citizens Leading For Energy Action Now
American Clean Energy Security Act: Coal Rewarded
Good Gosh, We Could Have Used That Money to Jump Start the Clean Energy Future in America!
Slurry Lawsuit Settlers Frustrated With Wait for Money
Mountains Aided With First-Ever Fundraising Concert in North Carolina
Sludge Safety Project Legislative Session Wrap-Up
DEPs Sludge Study Results: Agency Still Dont Know Nuthin
OVEC Organizer Testifies at Senate MTR Hearing
Thanks for All the Volunteers Who Helped After the Floods
Fighting For Our Ancestors Resting Places
Lobbying for Green Jobs in DC
Growing Movement Demands Protection for Mountains, Climate, Humanity
Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Take Over WV Pollution Permitting
Byrds Eye View: Staffers Get Close-Up Views of Mountain Range Removal
A Good Win in A Critical Federal Court Case Against MTR
Judicial Bill Pulled by Governor
Supreme Court Case Makes WV A National Laughingstock
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Photovoice Participants Capture their Communities in Images
Photovoice Exhibitions Well Covered By Local and Statewide Media
You Dont Have to Go to Copenhagen to Make a Difference
Obama and Mountaintop Removal Mining: The Roller Coaster Ride
New CD Celebrates Coalfield Resistance to Mountaintop Removal
Blair Mountain and the National Register of Historic Places
Ashford Yesterday, Today and Maybe Tomorrow?
Come Home to West Virginia? Buyer Beware!
Louv-ley Day in Charleston
Who Are They Kidding?
Web Extras:
Open Letter to Governor Manchin about Blair Mountain
Matewan, West Virginia


For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

 
Winds of Change Newsletter, August 2009     See sidebar for table of contents

Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Take Over WV Pollution Permitting

by Ken Ward Jr., excerpted from June 17, 2009, Coal Tattoo blog

A few weeks ago, when he went off on EPA, West Virginia Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said this: "We are the environmental regulators here in West Virginia. We are the ones on the front line here. We are the ones responsible for protecting the environment. We have a very rigorous and robust regulatory program that is basically being challenged."

Well we may find out now if the Obama administration thinks Randys right. Because this morning, a coalition of environmental groups filed a formal petition that demands the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency take over administration of the Clean Water Acts water pollution permitting and enforcement program (the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES) from the WV Department of Environmental Protection.

The petition alleges a "complete breakdown of West Virginias maintenance and enforcement of its NPDES program," and goes on to say: "The states capitulation to the industries it is obligated to regulate under the Clean Water Act and its resulting failure to enforce or maintain its NPDES program leave EPA no choice but to withdraw its approval of that program."

The petition says that WVDEPs failures are "greatly harming the state" and have led to the impairment of more than one-third of its rivers, streams and lakes. Examples of the impairment (many related to coal mining or the burning of coal) include: 5,153 miles of biologically impaired waterways; 3,958 miles of waterways with iron violations; 1,376 miles of waterways with pH problems; 937 miles with aluminum exceedences; 669 miles with mercury problems; and 160 miles with too much selenium.

The petition to EPA was filed by the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

The groups are represented by lawyers Joe Lovett and Derek Teaney from the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, and by Aaron Isherwood from the Sierra Clubs Environmental Law Program. The petition was also researched and written by Margaret Janes from the Appalachian Center.

The 26-page document outlines a variety of long-standing problems with the states water pollution regulatory program, as well as some more recent developments:

N During the 2009 session, West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that gives coal operators yet another three years to come into compliance with a water pollution limit for selenium thats been on the books for years.

N WVDEP has refused to obtain permits and set permit limits for abandoned mine sites where it treats water pollution discharges, a move that means the treatment isnt always up to standards and a practice that has been condemned by a federal judge.

N Agency officials for years ignored water pollution permit violations by coal companies, until EPA came in and did its own enforcement case against Massey Energy. And now, WVDEPs response has been to enter into a series of "egregious and inadequate" settlements with other mining companies, to avoid similar EPA lawsuits or citizen legal actions.

The petition also targets failings of the state Environmental Quality Board, which takes part in the NPDES program by hearing appeals and deciding legal disputes regarding water pollution permits and enforcement actions. Citizen groups say that the EQB has violated EPA rules by interpreting state laws to allow WVDEP permit writers to consider "the economic feasibility of compliance."

Under the law, EPA is obligated to respond in some manner so stay tuned. (Ed. Note: follow developments at blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/).

 

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