Sierra Club, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards Petition Virginia Air Board for Stricter Coal Dust Regulations
March 18, 2011
On March 18, the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board denied Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards’ petition to amend the state’s fugitive dust regulations. Instead, the Board ordered the state Department of Environmental Quality to develop a guidance document for managing the problem of dust in Roda and other coalfield communities where heavy, coal-laden trucks operate. Residents from Roda and other parts of southwest Virginia made the long trip to Richmond to attend the hearing and voice their concerns about the ongoing fugitive dust problem. While disappointed with the Board’s decision, these residents have vowed to keep fighting to protect the health and way of life of their communities.
January 24, 2011
Since the Virginia State Air Pollution Control meeting in June 2010, Roda residents have reported that Roda operators are not consistently using dust control measures, coal truck traffic through Roda has not diminished, and the fugitive dust problem persists. Roda residents and other similarly situated coalfield communities have filed numerous complaints, yet state agencies haven’t taken any action to remedy the problem. On January 24, 2011, Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) sent a letter to the Board, urging the Board to remedy the fugitive dust problem in Roda through mandatory dust control measures. The Board has agreed to reconsider the issue at its regularly scheduled meeting on March 18, 2011.
June 5, 2010
At a meeting on June 4, 2010, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board considered various options to remedy the fugitive dust problem in southwest Virginia. Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) urged the Board (1) to request that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issue a fugitive dust permit for Roda operators; (2) to institute an enforcement proceeding against Roda operators for violations of fugitive dust regulations; and (3) to revise and strengthen the state’s existing fugitive dust regulations. Unfortunately, the Board declined to issue a permit or enforcement order, and voted 3-to-3 not to strengthen the state’s fugitive dust regulations. The Board Chair stated that, while the evidence had established that there was a fugitive dust problem in Roda that posed a threat to public health, the problem had been largely solved as a result of voluntary dust control measures the coal companies instituted after the Club and SAMS first presented their concerns. The Board did, however, express interest in receiving periodic updates regarding the situation.
January 29, 2010
In November, Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards submitted a formal petition to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board requesting that the Board adopt stricter regulations to control fugitive dust emitted by trucks that haul coal from mining operations through residential areas. If the Board grants the petition, mine operators would be required to take precautions to prevent coal trucks from tracking dirt and other materials from mine sites onto public roads. These precautions include washing vehicle tires and bodies, and installing speed bumps and rumble strips to dislodge material from the vehicles before they enter public roads. The Air Board is currently accepting public comments on the petition, and will reach a decision on the proposed regulations in the near future.
October 5, 2009
In response to Sierra Club and its allies’ actions, coal mining companies in Roda adopted dust control measures to reduce dust levels in the community. The companies began frequent truck washings, street sweeping and watering down the main road, which proved to be very effective. Sierra Club, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and community members were pleased to see the air quality improve so quickly, but were concerned that companies would not continue these practices if they remained voluntary. Sierra Club and its allies’ concerns were affirmed when, at a hearing in early September 2009, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) presented its own findings on coal dust levels, which showed significant improvement. Rather than reporting to the Board that dust control measures had improved the situation and taking steps to ensure that those control measures remained in place, the DEQ claimed that Sierra Club’s study was flawed and that there wasn’t a coal dust problem in Roda. Fortunately, the Virginia Air Board sided with Sierra Club and directed the DEQ to work with state mine regulators, companies and community representatives to continue to address coal dust problems in Roda. The DEQ will report its latest findings to the Virginia Air Board at a hearing in late November.
May 1, 2009
On April 24, 2009, Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) achieved a major victory for the residents of Roda, Virginia and other coalfield communities. In response to a comprehensive report assembled by the two groups to highlight the problem of dust generated by coal trucks, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board directed the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to undertake its own investigation and to initiate actions to directly address dust issues in Roda.
The report included the results of a two-week air quality study, commissioned by Sierra Club and SAMS and conducted by North Carolina State University professor and scientist Viney Aneja, which sampled the air at two locations along Roda Road in August 2008. The study revealed that residents who live along Roda Road are consistently exposed to levels of particulate matter (essentially, dust) above the national health-based standard promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One of the air samples, taken in front of the home of a 91-year-old woman, revealed particulate matter levels more than three times the national standard. Roda Road is used by several mining companies to access their operations, and the trucks track coal, mud and debris from the mines to the road, where it dries and turns to dust that is stirred up by other vehicles.
In response to the report and to a presentation of the data by Dr. Aneja, the Virginia Air Board directed the DEQ to conduct its own sampling and investigations in Roda and the surrounding communities, and to work with other state agencies, the community, and mining companies to reduce dust emissions immediately. The Virginia Air Board also directed the DEQ to send letters to the Center for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health to request a health assessment of residents in Roda and implications for the region, and to provide updates on their findings at each of the Air Board’s upcoming quarterly meetings.
Details and Documents:
Sierra Club & SAMS' Letter to the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board
January 24, 2011
Virginia Air Board to seek binding agreement to control coal dust
September 4, 2009, Sierra Club & SAMS Press Release
To read the full report, click here.
SW Virginia residents seek relief from ‘fugitive’ dust of mines; panel rejects regulation plan
March 18, 2011, The Associated Press
Dust regs die in 3-3 split at air board
June 8, 2010 by Debra McCown, Bristol Herald Courier
Dust from coal truck poses Appalachian health threat -- study
April 24, 2009 by Robin Bravender, The New York Times
Va. environmentalists say coal truck dust a hazard
April 24, 2009 by Sue Lindsey, dailypress.com
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