Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Respond to Citizen Petition Outlining Regulatory Failings

The State Journal
27 December 2013

On December 30, 2013, the federal office of Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, or OSMRE, responded to a 733 citizen petition which outlined 19 major regulatory failings on the part of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, or WV DEP.

OSMRE has stated that it will be investigating the WV DEP on five primary issues over the coming months. Following the investigation, the office will determine if federal intervention into the West Virginia state mining program is needed under Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, or SMCRA, a move encouraged by hundreds of petition signatories throughout the state.

"The Citizen Action for Real Enforcement Campaign has carefully reviewed the response from OSMRE, and we look forward to building public awareness and support for federal intervention in the WVDEP in the coming months," stated CARE Campaign Coordinator, Johanna de Graffenreid. She continued saying, "While we were disappointed to see continued inaction relating to the failings of WVDEP in regards to regulating coal slurry impoundments, and the continued issuing of permits to sites with active SMCRA violations, we are encouraged that the federal office of OSMRE will be investigating five of the 19 issues we raised in our petition."

OSMRE has stated that they will thoroughly investigate the following problems that were brought to their attention by the CARE Campaign, under 30 CFR Section 733. I 2(a)(2) of SMCRA:

"1. WVDEP Fails to Address Potential flooding Impacts in the Permitting Process with Storm Water Runoff Analysis
2. WVDEP Fails to Issue SMCRA Violations Where National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Violations Exist;
3. WVDEP Fails to Regulate Selenium Pollution;
4. WVDEP Fails to Properly Define Impacted Areas in Cumulative Hydrologic Impact Analysis Results in Harm to Watersheds; and
5. WVDEP Fails to Require Properly Protective Soil Removal and Reclamation Measures for Mining Sites."

Under section 733 in SMCRA, citizens are allowed to petition the federal OSMRE to intervene in a state regulatory program if, after investigation, the agency is found to be failing to comply with federal standards - as what occurred in Kentucky in 2012. "Residents of West Virginia have been forced to suffer damaging and unsubstantial regulatory enforcement under the supervision of WVDEP. The CARE Campaign will work tirelessly in the coming months to ensure that our voices are heard by OSMRE and that the review leads to real enforcement of mining laws in West Virginia," said de Graffenreid.

The 18 environmental, civic and religious groups who filed the 120-page petition in June, 2013 includes: Appalachian Catholic Worker; Appalachian Voices; Catholic Committee of Appalachia; Center for Biological Diversity; Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Christians for the Mountains; Coal River Mountain Watch; Earthjustice; Keeper of the Mountains Foundation; League of Women Voters of West Virginia; Mountain Health and Heritage Association; National Wildlife Federation; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Sierra Club; West Virginia Citizen Action; West Virginia Environmental Council; West Virginia Highlands Conservancy; and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.