Climate Ground Zero blocks WVDEP building

August 26, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

Climate Ground Zero announced this morning that a pair of anti-mountaintop removal activists have blocked the entrance to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection headquarters over in Kanawha City.

According to the announcement:

Joe Hamsher, 23, and Sarah Seeds, 60, are chained to a concrete-filled metal barrel that is blocking the entrance to the parking lot of the DEP office complex in Charleston. The activists painted the following statement on the barrel: “Department of Easy Permits: Closed.”

Climate Ground Zero said the activists are trying to call attention to the WVDEP’s new mine permitting guidance, which they said is part of the state agency’s pattern of not enforcing the Clean Water Act.

10 Responses to “Climate Ground Zero blocks WVDEP building”

  1. bugman160 says:

    I am getting sick of everyone blaming the DEP over MTM. There are a lot of people at DEP who would like to run things better, but politics always trumps. Huffman could go with everything EPA says to do and he would be fired and replaced by the end of the day.
    Why don’t you people get out there and vote. Why don’t you go and protest down at the capitol where the real power is located.
    If there is no politcal willpower, there will be no change.

  2. Jimmy says:

    We do vote. We do protest at the capitol. We protest at the mine sites. We lobby at the local, state and federal level. We knock on doors. We organize with churches. We research. We protest the banks. And we protest DEP. We are using every possible angle to bring an end to mountaintop removal. We are using every tool in our tool belt.
    If the folks at the DEP want to see things run better, they ought to see to it that things run better. They have free will, they have agency, they can take things into their own hands. There are lots of ways that folks at the DEP can take action. They could take advantage of state and federal whistle blower protection laws and blow the whistle on corruption and ineptitude at the DEP. They could anonymously leak documents and testimony to the press. They could recruit fresh blood into the agency. They could lobby their politicians. They could develop a working relationship with the anti-MTR movement and find out ways to help.
    If people at the DEP want to see mountaintop removal end, they need to take responsibility for their workplace. They need to take a stand against the corruption and collusion of the regulatory agencies, the politicians and the energy industry. It is possible. It is definitely possible.

  3. Bugman160 says:

    1. “They could take advantage of state and federal whistle blower protection laws and blow the whistle on corruption and ineptitude at the DEP.”

    I have no confidence that this offers state employees any real and lasting protection for doing what is right. People are scared for their jobs and are hesitant to do anything because they know that once they do that, they are marked and will be fired at a later date or persecuted until they leave. This only would work in a situation where someone is leaving anyway (retirement or leaving the state).

    2. “They could anonymously leak documents and testimony to the press.”

    Happened once already. Seemed to help some and then it died off. Needs to happen again soon.

    3. “They could recruit fresh blood into the agency.”

    And fresh blood comes in, stays for a couple of years gaining experience and then walks right out the door due to the poor attitude of the administration toward state employees. Too many have come on board only to get frustrated with the fact that if you do your job well, put in extra effort, you won’t get a raise unless it is an across the board raise that benefits the employees who do little to nothing. Also, some of the older employees are unwilling to change things and discurage newer personnel.

    3. “They could lobby their politicians.”

    Not without the heads of the agency signing off on it first. And they won’t do that under the current administration.

    4 “They could develop a working relationship with the anti-MTR movement and find out ways to help.”

    This is happening in some ways. But again, not without the blessing of the agency heads.

  4. Robyn says:

    Then there is the possiblity that no one here wants to admit and that is, that the law is what it is and that the people who work at the DEP do what the law says. Maybe the people the readers of this blog so often want to vilify are actually hard working people who do their jobs, who work to make things better and who raise questions and bring up facts – all without blowing whistles or leaking documents.

    I get tired of people calling the DEP corrupt and inept. And just because you don’t like a certain practice you resort to name calling and blanket, unsubstantiated accusations of corruption and criminal behavior. When you say that, you are not attacking just an agency, you are attacking a grandfather of three who takes pride in what he does to help the people of this state or a single mother trying to get by from one day to the next while trying to do things the way a 47-page code in state laws says she should; or any number of people JUST LIKE YOU.

    What’s interesting is the news that isn’t reported…

    The environmental groups filed a petition with OSM saying the DEP isn’t doing its job. Funny how this blog dosen’t have a “leaked” copy of the response by OSM saying that the agency had done a review of the DEP and could not substantiate the claims and found no cause to take over the agency as they wanted.

    Also funny is that no one has leaked a recent report by a federal agency that finds that after coming out and testing her water, a certain activist’s water is not contaminated by mining as she has repeatedly claimed over the years.

    No, pointing out the false statements made about the DEP isn’t news and it isn’t what the people who read this blog want to read.

    There is truth on the other side too, and the ability to recognize it and acknowlege it is not only mature it goes a long way toward credibility.

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Actually, I would refer you to this Coal Tattoo post:
    The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has issued a letter that strongly backs the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s currently regulatory practices regarding mountaintop removal mining.

    So, we have covered that on Coal Tattoo …

    You don’t specify what environmentalist you’re talking about regarding well water contamination, but perhaps you actually mean to refer to what is discussed in the story previous published in the Gazette,

    Bob McLusky, a lawyer for Magnum, said Day testified that state inspectors concluded the mining operation did not cause the flooding in Gunnoe’s community. Given that, McLusky said, any claim of harm from future mining is ‘speculative.’
    ‘The real harm is to the jobs of these folks here,’ McLusky said, pointing to the miners in the courtroom.

    If this isn’t what you’re discussion, please provide more specific information and if we haven’t covered it before, we’ll look into it.


  6. Robyn says:

    Thanks for posting the link to the story on the OSM letter. I guess I missed that one. But the second link is not the report that I heard about. It is one that came out in the last few months and is about the lady’s drinking water, not flooding.

    But, of course the people who leak things to you aren’t going to send you that one because it supports the idea that either mining doesn’t have the impact on water that opponents say it does or, my point, maybe the agency is enforcing measures to protect water quality.

    Look, everyone has a right to their opinion, and mine is that I’m tired of attacks on an agency that actually does a decent job enforcing the laws. People get mad when the DEP issues permits and make claims that the staff is corrupt. They are allowed to say those things because they have the right of free speech, but what they don’t realize is the people they are attacking are people who are doing their jobs according to the law. Sure, the DEP can deny a permit, but the company that had invested a lot of money and made sure the permit meets the requirements is going to take the DEP to court and get the permit in the end. All that takes time and costs the state money, so the staff do what the law tells them to do in the first place. but it’s not the answer people want, so they say the agency is corrupt.

  7. Thomas Rodd says:

    I appreciate the good-faith interchange between Robyn and Ken.

    Robyn, I have seen the “corruption” accusation unfairly levelled at police officers, agency inspectors, etc. many times. It is a normal human reaction and the best officers take it in stride. People are looking for simnple explanations of complex situations, and that one is easy to come up with.

    When the DEP permit team that approved a terribly polluting mine behind my house made its recommendation — one that Charleston clearly wanted — one inspector was sick that day, because he could not stomach the hypocrisy if he signed on with his approval.

    Four years later, the mine poisoned the creek, and the people at the regional DEP who recommended approval were shown to be wrong. I think the fellow who called in sick has probably retired. It’s hard on people to go against their convictions.

    There are moving human stories in every aspect of this business.

  8. bulltownwv says:

    The moving stories are that we are destroying WV, our home, for the profit of a few coal companies not even based in WV. We are turning our heaven on earth into an environmental and cultural disaster for 2500 -3500 jobs? Come on. It’s time to demand an end to MTR and all surface mining. This land is my land.

  9. Vernon says:

    From five years of having to deal with DEP, “inept” is the best adjective I can use, with few exceptions. I could, if I had the time, list several instances of DEP ineptitude, but the most recent is the “show cause” hearing on Aug 24, in which the “consent order” negotiated between the DEP and Massey is not the same as the one provided to CRMW, who initiated the show cause by pointing out a pattern of violations. DEP and Massey’s attitude was that the pattern was no big deal. The corrective actions were also ineffective, essentially requiring Massey to give DEP two pieces of paper and to not remove coal from the one mine site for three consecutive days, which could include a holiday. Even in that, the DEP attorney and inspector supervisor interpreted the consent order two different ways.

  10. Monty says:

    Robyn, you are correct -everyone is entitled to a point of view. I, for one, would not use the word corrupt to characterize the WV DEP. But –

    You have to admit that an agency that willing and knowingly allows a coal company to continuously violate a water quality standard, going so far as to engage in a sham lawsuit in order to block an outside group from bringing its own court action, in order to buy the coal company more time to go on breaking the water quality standard, because the coal company is complaining that it is “to expensive” to meet the standard – those are not the actions of people who have the name of their agency as their central focus, are they?

    But that is the way things are in West Virginia, and the way things have been for far too long. I am nominally hopeful that the EPA will continue to flex its muscles a bit more in the limited amount of time it has left.

Leave a Reply