Mar 11, 2010
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has denied local citizens a public hearing regarding a show cause order on the Edwight Surface Mine. According to state law, show cause orders, intended to be the last step before the DEP shuts down a mine site, are supposed to be settled in public hearings. Despite the law, the DEP has decided not to hold a public hearing, and is instead privately negotiating a consent order with the mine operator, Alex Energy, a subsidiary company of Massey Energy.
After repeated requests, the DEP has granted Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) the right to submit comments on the drafted consent order but is still refusing to hold a public hearing. CRMW is asking community members to submit comments to them, as well as suggesting they file for their own right to comment.
Due to the DEP's continual failure to follow the law, CRMW is now looking to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).
"Massey Energy's Edwight permit is one of the most flagrant examples of the DEP failing to regulate this outlaw company. The OSMRE needs to act now to takeover the duties that this failed agency refuses to perform," said Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch.
Other community members are also expressing frustration with the violations on Edwight. Last April, local citizen Bo Webb took his case all the way to Washington, D.C. after he observed violations going unnoticed by the West Virginia DEP. As a result, OSMRE shut down that area of Edwight until the violations were issued.
Currently, there have been 33 cited violations on the Edwight Surface Mine. Besides the violations mentioned in the show cause, there are nine others that exhibit a negative pattern, a label given by the DEP when at least three violations of the same type occur within 12 months of each other. The current show cause order was issued in November for six repeated violations.
As these violations continue and the DEP refuses to enforce the law, community members are left to deal with the consequences. As local resident Tom Beckner said in reference to Edwight, "We used to have some of the best drinking water. Now it's nothing but a slush pond."