CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has replaced two members of a state appeals board that is in the middle of a major case that focuses on implementation of new federal water-quality guidance for mountaintop removal mining permits.
Late last week, Tomblin named two new members for the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board, replacing board members Ted Armbrecht and James Van Gundy as the board considered the permit for Arch Coal Inc.'s New Hill West Mine in Monongalia County.
Armbrecht, a Charleston businessman and conservation advocate, and Van Gundy, a retired Davis & Elkins College biologist, had taken part in a unanimous board ruling in March, ordering the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to add new water-quality limits to the mine's water pollution permit
However, as frequently happens with state boards and commissions, Armbrecht and Van Gundy were continuing to serve several years after their terms had officially expired. Such service is considered legal until a governor reappoints the board members or replaces them with someone else.
Tomblin appointed Marshall University science dean Charles Somerville and West Virginia Geological Survey coal program manager Mitch Blake to take their spots on the five-person board.
"The terms of Mr. Armbrecht and professor Van Gundy have been expired since 2008 and 2009, respectively, and they have been holding over until their successors are appointed," said Tomblin spokeswoman Jacqueline Proctor. "Governor Tomblin appreciates their service to the state.
"The governor makes appointments to boards and commissions every day," Proctor said. "In fact, he had appointed over 50 individuals between the redistricting special session and the most recent special session certifying the gubernatorial election."
Armbrecht had served on the EQB for nearly a decade, after being appointed in June 2002 by then-Gov. Bob Wise. Van Gundy was appointed in 2005 by then-Gov. Joe Manchin.
"I'm very positive on my years on the board, and I'm sorry that they will be over," Armbrecht said Tuesday. "I think that the work of that board in protecting the waters of the state is truly critical to our future."
Armbrecht, who is known for trying to convince other state business leaders to pay more attention to environmental concerns, said the board had been able to cooperate and reach unanimous decisions in many cases, despite differing views of many issues.
"People of different backgrounds -- business, and academia and the environment -- have really worked together," Armbrecht said.
The terms of the board's other three members, including longtime chairman Ed Snyder, also have expired.
Tomblin's shakeup of the board comes less than a month before a crucial meeting in mid-December, when board members will consider their response to a circuit court ruling in the New Hill West permit case.