Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2011 See sidebar for table of contents
Legal Brief: Weakening the Rules
OVEC and WV Highlands Conservancy have provided notice
that we will appeal a recent federal court decision. In 2007, the DEP
asked for amendments to WVs surface mining regulatory program, and the
US Dept. of the Interior (DOI) approved those amendments.
In February 2009, OVEC challenged the DOIs action. WV
DEP changed the legal definitions of two crucial terms in a way which we
believe could make it easier for multiple coal companies, operating in
close proximity, to cumulatively contaminate the watershed with illegal
levels of toxins.
This January, federal Judge Robert C. Chambers issued
a summary judgment that agreed with the DEP. The agency argued that
under the new definitions, watersheds would still have legal protections
from the cumulative effects of several mines. OVEC and WV Highlands
Conservancy will appeal this decision. Were represented by attorneys
Joe Lovett and Derek Teaney, with the Appalachian Center for the Economy
and the Environment, and Walt Morris.