Groups Threaten Legal Action against Environmental Protection Agency for Failure to Protect West Virginia Waterways from Coal Mining Pollution
January 28, 2013
On January 25, a coalition of community groups formally warned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they may take legal action against the Agency for its failure to ensure that West Virginia streams and waterways polluted by coal mining are properly assessed. The Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy -- represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates -- are responding to the EPA’s failure to act on a woefully incomplete list of polluted streams that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection submitted. The coalition informed the EPA of their intent to sue based on the Agency's failure to carry out its non-discretionary duty to disapprove West Virginia's inadequate list of polluted waterways.
The deficient list of polluted waterways stems from the West Virginia legislature’s recent attempts to change the state’s water quality standards. The state formerly used scientific surveys of aquatic insects to determine which streams are biologically impaired. Now, because of the legislature’s actions, the state claims that it must develop new methods for determining impairment. Rather than use the previous assessment method in preparing the updated list of impaired streams, the state opted to not conduct any assessment at all. Had the state used its previous method, it would have identified an additional 173 streams as impaired. And had the state used the method directed by the EPA, it would have identified 546 streams as impaired.
“We need someone to call a stream polluted when it is, and if the West Virginia DEP won’t do it then the EPA must,” said Jim Sconyers with the Sierra Club's West Virginia Chapter. “How do you stop the pollution of West Virginia’s streams? Easy! It seems like King Coal just gets its friends in the West Virginia Legislature to change the rules so then they can label obviously polluted streams as clean.”
To view a copy of the 60-day notice letter, please see the link at the bottom.
Details and Documents:
Notice Letter to EPA
January 25, 2013, Sierra Club et al.
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.