Coal Tattoo

Citizens to Obama: Take over WVDEP

This just in from the folks at Coal River Mountain Watch and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition: The two groups have asked the U.S. EPA and the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to take over the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

I’ve posted a copy of their letter here, and I have messages out to WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman seeking comment.

Here’s the CRMW and OVEC news release:

Grassroots citizens groups ask EPA to take over W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection;

DEP places coal profits ahead of environmental justice for citizens

CHARLESTON, W.Va.The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has failed to do its job by not enforcing laws and regulations, allowing coal companies to pollute with impunity. Therefore, the EPA and federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement should take over the agency, according to the West Virginia groups Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. The groups sent this message in a letter yesterday to EPA head Lisa Jackson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Ms. Jackson and Mr. Salazar, you are our last hope for justice at this point, the letter said. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is not doing its job in protecting the environment here in West Virginia, and as a result the people are suffering from Environmental Injustice. We are asking that the EPA and/or OSMRE take primacy from the WV DEP to protect us, the people of West Virginia.

Environmental justice, the citizens groups said, will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

The letter pointed to DEP’s 90-plus open positions as an indication the agency is incapable of doing its job effectively, as well as past examples where the federal government has stepped in forcing DEP to do its job: If DEP was doing its job, why did it take the EPA and the Justice Department to come in and fine Massey Energy $20 million for thousands of water pollution violations across southern West Virginia coalfields? They also cited the coal slurry study for which the DEP has repeatedly missed legislative deadlines, saying Clean water is a human rights issue and people in our communities are sick and dying from toxic water.

Mainly what were concerned about as regulators is the ability to develop land after mining, the letter quoted DEP Secretary Randy Huffman as saying. You need valley fills if youre going to have a viable post mining economy. You need flat land. And in order to have flat land you need to have valley fills, and one of our biggest concerns is that EPA is wanting to reduce the size and number of valley fills in Appalachia.

Since when is DEPs primary concern the ability to develop land after mining? the letter said. I thought DEPs job was to protect the environment.