West Virginia League Update, June, 2013

    West Virginia Update

July, 2013  


  • The League has filed a petition on surface mining.
  • The League will submit comments on state water quality standards
  • Another Supreme Court ruling you may not have heard of.





The League joined the Citizens Action for Real Enforcement Campaign (C.A.R.E.), a coalition of state and federal organizations that is demanding accountability for West Virginia’s enforcement of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).


On June 24 the group filed a formal administrative law petition with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) alleging widespread problems with enforcement of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act.   and the WV’s Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) demanding federal intervention. The petition was filed under a provision that allows citizens to ask the federal OSMRE to take over a state agency if they believe the agency is failing to enforce the law. The filing of this petition triggers an obligation on the part of OSMRE to investigate the citizens’ claims and, if they are deemed valid, to order changes in the state program or assume enforcement itself.

Here are some of the problems with the WVDEP’s program

  • Understaffing and underpaid employees resulting in inadequate inspections.
  • Grossly inadequate penalties for infractions of the law.
  • Deficient use of accurate science relating to flooding and pollution, resulting in permits that do not protect communities and our waters.
  • Resisting the monitoring of selenium and conductivity in the effluents from mine sites resulting in impaired streams.


Retired miner Chuck Nelson summed up the case for federal action, “People who have lived in the coalfields for generations have reached out to our DEP for help. After many years of pleading our case, we have no confidence in our DEP, nor should we. Our only option is to seek federal intervention to assure that our communities get what everyone deserves – protection from the pollution and toxins that are directly impacting the health of the people that live within these communities,”


The filing of the petition is a first step. C.A.R.E. envisions a sustained campaign by educating its members and the public on the inadequacies of WV’s surface mining enforcement program.  For more information see: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2013/06/24/breaking-news-citizen-groups-seek-osmre-takeover-of-west-virginia-deps-mining-program/





The League is joining other groups to submit comments to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) on its Triennial Review of water quality standards. The other groups include the WV Rivers Coalition, WV Environmental Council, WV Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Council.

Some of the comments support the agency’s proposed changes. But some of our comments indicate concerns about:

  • The need for nutrient criteria for streams to ensure aquatic health.
  • Opposition to weakened standards for aluminum.
  • Support for the establishment of a Total Dissolved Solids standard.
  • Support for an aquatic life criterion for water conductivity that is consistent with peer-reviewed scientific analysis that high conductivity harms aquatic life.




Lost in the coverage of other important Supreme Court decisions is Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. The decision, based on the takings clause of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution, weakens considerably the rights of local land use agencies to prevent harms and burdens that come from development. For more information read



For additional information about events happening in the WV or National Leagues, please log on to  www.lwvwv.org.or www.lwf.org.


Nancy Novak


Nancy Novak, President

League of Women Voters of West Virginia