FYI, the environmental community expects the following suit to have national
Thursday January 24, 2002
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 927-3265,
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
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment, (304)
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
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
"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 www.tlpj.org.
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