So the DEP decided not to list any new biologically impaired streams -- though at least 173 new streams should have been listed under the regulations currently in place.
The DEP is taking this approach despite the fact that the new water quality standard hasn't been reviewed or approved by the EPA, as required -- indeed, even though the regulations implementing the new standard haven't been drafted.
SB 562 specifically states that the new standards shouldn't be less protective than existing ones, but already it is resulting in less protection for the state's waters. The DEP's actions will delay protection of impaired streams through the TMDL process for years.
What does this episode illuminate? Simply this: Both the legislative and executive branches of West Virginia government are bending over backward to protect the coal industry from taking responsibility for the pollution it produces and the damage it causes. Right now, this is saving the coal industry hundreds of millions of dollars.
Understand this: If the industry successfully evades this responsibility, the taxpayers of West Virginia will be left shouldering the enormous cost of cleaning up the mess.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates recently posted on its website a map showing all of the impaired streams in the state in red. The state was blanketed in red, especially the coalfields.
With this attitude on the part of public officials, is it any wonder why?
Radmacher is communications director for Appalachian Mountain Advocates (www.appalmad.org).