FYI, the environmental community expects the following suit to have national implications.
-Rich Gannon


Thursday January 24, 2002
 Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 927-3265, 522-0246.
 Jeremy P. Muller, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, (304) 637-7201.
Margaret Janes, Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment, (304)897-6048.
 Jim Hecker, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, (202) 797-8600, ext 225.
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment, (304) 645-9006.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC), and twenty-three other environmental organizations and citizens filed a lawsuit on January 23, 2002 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a water quality policy that is supposed to keep West Virginia's high quality rivers and streams from being unnecessarily polluted.

 Joe Lovett of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment ( The Appalachian Center) in Lewisburg, W.Va. and Jim Hecker of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. represent the plaintiffs.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Huntington, W.Va., alleges that EPA approved an illegal anti-degradation implementation plan for West Virginia. The plan, passed by the state Legislature in 2001, was approved by the Bush EPA this past November.

"For years we have tried to work with state and federal agencies to come up with a plan that protects our rivers," said Jeremy P. Muller, executive director of WVRC. "However, EPA and the state were not willing to put forth protections for West Virginia's outstanding rivers and streams.
 Instead, they continually gave in to polluters."

"This lawsuit has national implications for clean water and could set the standard for the whole country," said Joan Mulhern, co-chair of the Clean Water Network, a national coalition of over 1,000 advocacy organizations.

 "The Bush EPA has backtracked on anti-degradation policy, so it is doubly important that West Virginians hold the agency accountable." 

 The anti-degradation provision of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act is supposed to ensure that clean waters are protected and polluted waters are not polluted further. An anti-degradation policy says that before a polluter gets permission from the state to pollute high quality waters,
 the state must conduct a thorough and open public review of the project to assure that the social and economic benefits of allowing water pollution outweigh the social and economic costs of that pollution.

 "The Bush EPA approved plan is a better deal for polluters than it is for the citizens of this state,'" said Margaret Janes, Senior Policy Analyst for The Appalachian Center. "It does not comply with federal law. That's why we had to sue."

 Nationally, anti-degradation is becoming an issue as citizens and environmental groups are protecting the clean rivers and streams that remain. Environmentalists, who see the Bush administration as pushing an anti-clean water agenda, are seeking under-utilized protections that
 forward-thinking legislation, like the Clean Water Act, provides. 

 "President Clinton's EPA was poised to promulgate a protective policy for West Virginia, but after President Bush took the White House any chance of getting meaningful environmental policies in West Virginia evaporated, "said Muller. "Public health, recreation, tourism, a strong economy, and West Virginia's future, are why we protect our clean water. It appears the
 Bush EPA would allow industry to pollute West Virginia's rivers rather than protect them."

West Virginia's policy is full of exemptions for the mining, oil and gas, and logging industries. For example, valley fills from large mountain to pre-moval coal mining operations are exempt. "We've had over 1,000 miles of streams in West Virginia buried by valley fills, and this activity is exempted from the policy intended to protect our rivers and streams?" said Bady. "EPA says this complies with the Clean Water Act? How?"

 "This is the sort of policy-making we're seeing across the country from the Bush EPA," noted Janes. "Polluters get red-carpet treatment and average citizens who depend on clean water get polluted rivers not fit for drinking, swimming, or fishing."

A copy of the complaint in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Whitman
 is available at

Richard Gannon
Non-point Source Water Quality Planner
NC Division of Water Quality
1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1617

(919) 733-5083 ext. 356
FAX (919) 715-5637

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