Gov. Joe Manchin and his administration have hired outside legal counsel to represent the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in case state officials decide to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its new water quality guidelines for Appalachian strip mining.
The Charleston law firm of Bailey & Glasser
will handle litigation if the state decides a lawsuit is necessary. In a strange twist, Bailey & Glasser brought several suits on behalf of coalfield residents against Massey Energy of Virginia.
Back in April, under Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA added stricter restrictions to the Clean Water Act to minimize environmental, water quality and human health impacts from mining. Also, in the interest of greater transparency, the agency is developed a permit tracking website so the public can determine the status of mining permits. The agency also publicly released two scientific reports — one summarizes the aquatic impacts of mountaintop mining and valley fills and the other sets a scientific benchmark for unacceptable levels of conductivity that threaten stream life.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who passed away on June 28, gave this statement about the new restrictions in April: "Today’s announcement will hopefully now have everyone reading off the same page. I, along with other elected officials, coal operators, the mining community, and environmentalists from West Virginia have been asking for a clearer, concise policy on moving forward with mountaintop mining permits and water quality issues. I am pleased that EPA Administrator Jackson took our concerns about the need to provide clarity very seriously and has responded with these guidelines"
It is time that all of our elected officials understand that coal may be essential to the country’s energy future, but there is absolutely no need to blow up our mountains, degrade our water, desecrate old family cemeteries and steal bits of our culture and heritage to meet those needs.