New ruling: WVDEP deals don’t insulate coal companies

February 4, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

While the rest of us were focused on President Obama’s big meeting with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and other energy state governors, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver issued a pretty significant ruling in a water pollution case against a Fayette County coal operation.

The ruling, which I’ve posted here, again supports the notion that private deals the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection works out with coal companies to resolve water pollution violations do not prevent citizen groups from filing their own Clean Water Act lawsuits to try to force companies to stop violating permit limits.

Judge Copenhaver ruled on this issue before (see previous post). The case involves Powellton Coal Co., a CONSOL Energy Inc. subsidiary, which environmental groups say has accrued more than 6,700 violations of the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Act at its Bridge Fork Surface Mine, Sugarcamp Loadout and Rich Creek Haulroad.

Previous posts about WVDEP’s deals with the coal industry are available here and here.

This suit against Powellton was brought by the Sierra Club and the Ansted Historical Preservation Council, groups that have also been taking on WVDEP for re-issuing permits for Powellton while the company had unresolved environmental violations.

5 Responses to “New ruling: WVDEP deals don’t insulate coal companies”

  1. It seems to me we have a pretty sorry state of affairs when citizens are constantly in court trying to get the Government to do its job.

    So much for Big Brother watching out for our interests.

  2. Bob Kincaid says:

    The factual history of this case is a sun-bright spotlight on the WVDEP’s self-perceived mission of accomodating serial polluters in direct contradiction of its mission to protect WV’s environment and, by extension, its citizens.

    At a December 2008 meeting, representatives questioned by members of AHPC couldn’t recall ever denying a coal company’s permit application. Under further questioning, they couldn’t identify a single thing they could imagine serving as cause to deny a permit, literally from mass graves to uranium.

    Any reasonably objective observer can’t help but reach the conclusion that the “P” in WVDEP doesn’t stand for “Protection,” but for “Permitting.” As such, it’s clear at least to many of us that the WVDEP is an entirely failed agency and should be scrapped so that the EPA can come in and do the job WVDEP refuses to do.

    This case is cause for considerable celebration here in Fayette County. By no means is the fight over, but it points a way forward and shows clearly that Judge Copenhaver understands the right of citizens to petition the Court for redress of grievances when a governmental agency proves itself unwilling or unable to do its assigned job.

    Congratulations to Derek Teaney, lead counsel on the case, for the magnificent job he’s thusfar done!

  3. […] New ruling: WVDEP deals don’t insulate coal companies. – Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette, February 4, 2010 While the rest of us were focused on President Obama’s big meeting with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and other energy state governors, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver issued a pretty significant ruling in a water pollution case against a Fayette County coal operation. The ruling, which I’ve posted here, again supports the notion that private deals the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection works out with coal companies to resolve water pollution violations do not prevent citizen groups from filing their own Clean Water Act lawsuits to try to force companies to stop violating permit limits. Click Here […]

  4. […] New ruling: WVDEP deals don’t insulate coal companies. – Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette, February 4, 2010 While the rest of us were focused on President Obama’s big meeting with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and other energy state governors, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver issued a pretty significant ruling in a water pollution case against a Fayette County coal operation. The ruling, which I’ve posted here, again supports the notion that private deals the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection works out with coal companies to resolve water pollution violations do not prevent citizen groups from filing their own Clean Water Act lawsuits to try to force companies to stop violating permit limits. Click Here […]

  5. […] New ruling: WVDEP deals don’t insulate coal companies. – Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette, February 4, 2010 While the rest of us were focused on President Obama’s big meeting with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and other energy state governors, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver issued a pretty significant ruling in a water pollution case against a Fayette County coal operation. The ruling, which I’ve posted here, again supports the notion that private deals the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection works out with coal companies to resolve water pollution violations do not prevent citizen groups from filing their own Clean Water Act lawsuits to try to force companies to stop violating permit limits. Click Here […]

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