Written by: Dan Radmacher
March 7, 2012
Because Virginia has refused to adequately notify the public of pending mining permits, Appalachian Mountain Advocates joined the Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the state to fix the issue or strip it of its ability to run its own Clean Water Act program.
On Aug. 31, Appalmad requested to be placed on the Virginia Division of Mined Land Reclamation’s mailing list to be notified of pending permits. A DMLR representative wrote back to say that such a list did not exist. DMLR was informed that Clean Water Act regulations clearly require such a list for notifications. Eventually, DMLR agreed to meet with citizens about the development of such a list, but since that December meeting has taken no action to create it.
Such a list is a vital part of an effective public notice system. It ensures that interested citizens and organizations – such as Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards – can keep abreast of pending permits and submit comments or appeals in a timely manner. Other states allowed to run their own NPDES programs have all managed to create modern public notice systems that make it easy for concerned citizens to keep track of pending permits. There is no reason Virginia cannot do the same.
Because the state has failed in this important part of its duty, the EPA should assure Virginia follows Clean Water Act requirements for public notice or revoke the state’s program and take over the permitting of coal surface mining and reclamation activities.