Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
History and Overview
With the enactment of Senate Bill 217 during a special
session of the West Virginia Legislature, the Division of
Environmental Protection was created in October 1991. The legislation
abolished the former Division of Energy and created two separate
agencies: DEP and the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.
Both agencies operated as organizational units of the Department of
Commerce, Labor and Environmental Resources. Former DOE employees
were transferred into the new agencies.
The order also
transferred Water Resources and Waste Management from the Division of
Natural Resources to the DEP and did the same with the formerly
independent Air Pollution Control staff.
On July 1, 1992,
the state’s environmental protection and regulatory programs were
gathered under one agency – the DEP.
On July 1, 1994,
the Division of Commerce, Labor and Environmental Resources was
abolished, and three bureaus replaced it: The Bureau of Employment
Programs, Bureau of Environment and the Bureau of Commerce. The DEP
was placed under the authority of the Bureau of Environment. The
Office of Environmental Advocate was created by the West Virginia
Legislature to serve as a liaison for citizen concerns in the
administration of programs at DEP.
In July 1995, the
Division of Environmental Protection established its own Office of
Legal Services. Employees within the Environmental and Energy
Division in the Attorney General’s Office were transferred to the
DEP’s newly formed office.
In the 1996 legislative
session, the Office of Environmental Remediation was formed under the
Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Act. It was created to clean
up and put to use contaminated industrial sites in the state.
During the 1999 legislative session, the Office of
Explosives and Blasting was established to promote the protection of
citizens and their property by enforcing the blasting laws pursuant
to surface mining.
While still adapting to meet its
consolidated responsibilities, the DEP was organized into 12 major
organizational units. They were:
Offices: comprised of the agency director and immediate support
staff, general counsel, public information, environmental advocate
and the ombudsman.
• Office of Administration: comprised of
the agency’s personnel office, payroll and training, fiscal,
accounts payable, purchasing, property management, administrative
services, communications and information technology.
of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation: oversaw the reclamation of
lands disturbed by mining activity prior to enactment of the Surface
Mining Reclamation and Control Act of 1977 and for the Special
• Office of Legal Services: represented
the DEP in any administrative proceeding or in any proceeding in any
state or federal court.
• Office of Mining and Reclamation:
regulated surface mining activity within the state – including
permitting, inspection and enforcement activity.
• Office of
Oil and Gas: regulated the oil and gas industry – including
permitting and enforcement and closing or reclaiming abandoned gas
• Office of Air Quality: monitored air quality, issued
permits for industrial facilities and regulated emission standards
and the provisions of the Clean Air Act.
• Office of Water
Resources: monitored water quality, issued permits for industrial and
municipal facilities, provided construction assistance for water
plants and wastewater treatment facilities and enforced groundwater
• Office of Waste Management: regulated
water disposal, hazardous waste management, underground storage
tanks, and compliance monitoring.
Enforcement: monitored facility inspection, complaint investigations
and enforced water resources and waste management laws, rules and
• Office of Explosives and Blasting: regulated
blasting related to surface mining activity.
• Office of
Environmental Remediation: created to clean up and put to use
contaminated industrial sites.
In the 2001 legislative
session, the DEP’s structure was further changed. It was elevated
to a cabinet-level agency, which led to the director being elevated
to cabinet secretary. Thus, the Division of Environmental Protection
became the Department of Environmental Protection.
Office of Waste Management and Office of Environmental Remediation
were combined into the Division of Waste Management.
Office of Water Resources became the Division of Water Resources. The
Office of Mining and Reclamation was combined with the Office of
Explosives and Blasting to become the Division of Mining and
Reclamation and the Office of Air Quality became the Division of Air
The Innovative Policy Office was created, and
the agency added an environmental toxicologist, a mining advisor and
a director of special projects, all of whom reported to the cabinet
The chief of administration was elevated to an
assistant secretary position and had the offices of Administration,
Oil and Gas, Abandoned Mine Lands, and Information Technology, as
well as the Aviation Section reporting to the position.
agency’s general counsel was elevated to the deputy secretary
position and the Office of Legal Services reported to the position.
Also, several of the other major units of DEP were further divided
Two years later, in 2003, the department
experienced further reorganization. The divisions of Waste Management
and Water Resources were combined into what is now the Division of
Water and Waste Management. In addition, the Environmental
Remediation, Environmental Restoration and the Landfill Closure
Assistance programs within the Division of Waste Management were
combined with the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and the Special
Reclamation Program to form a new division called the Division of
The department centralized the
administrative functions of the agency by moving support personnel
from the various divisions into the Office of Administration.
Water Resources Protection Act was originally passed on March 13,
2004 requiring the first Large Quantity User Survey to be completed
2005, the agency’s assistant cabinet secretary was given the
additional duty of serving as director of the Division of Mining and
Reclamation and named deputy cabinet secretary.
was appointed to oversee the operations of the Office of
Administration and reported to the deputy cabinet secretary.
Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program was created within the
Executive Office, and a Homeland Security and Emergency Response Unit
was created from sections of the Division of Water and Waste
Management and placed within the Executive Office as well.
reorganization of the Division of Water and Waste Management placed
the Dam Safety and Waste Compliance units under the control of the
Office of Environmental Enforcement, which was brought under the
division’s control. The reorganization also regrouped the
permitting functions, Groundwater Program, and Waste Permitting
sections under the assistant director of the Permitting Program. A
program support unit was also created under the division director,
and a Water Quality Standards Section was created at the assistant
division director’s level.
A year later, the
Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) was removed from the
Division of Natural Resources and was incorporated into the DEP. The
program had staff support from the Public Information Office, Office
of Administration and the Division of Land Restoration, all of whom
helped to promote the Adopt-A-Highway, Litter Control, Make It Shine
and Recycling programs. In addition, the Aviation Section was removed
from the agency.
March 8, 2008, Senate Bill 641 passed amending and renaming the act
The Water Resources Protection Act the Water Resources Protection and
Management Act (§22-26) requiring a State Water Resources Management
Plan by 2013. The Water Use Section was created in July 2008 to
accomplish the additional requirements of the Act.
2008, the Division of Water and Waste Management entered into an
agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to administer the
In-Lieu Mitigation Program in West Virginia. As a result, the DEP
hired one additional staff member to oversee the program.
fiscal year 2009, the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands was moved from
under the Division of Land Restoration and its chief assigned to
report directly to the cabinet secretary. In addition, the
Information Technology Office underwent significant change when a
state-wide consolidation of information technology placed the staff
under the Governor’s Office of Technology. The change dramatically
reduced the size of the office.
In December of 2011, the
Horizontal Well Act became effective. In response to expanded
horizontal well drilling, the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas expanded
dramatically. This expansion had significant impacts on the Division
of Air Quality and the Division of Water and Waste Management.
September of 2012, the Department established an Internal Auditor at
the suggestion of the Legislature and the Legislative Auditor.
Additional staff was added to the unit in February of 2016. The
functions of the work unit are to evaluate processes to help improve
operations and reporting and to promote compliance. The Chief
Internal Auditor reports directly to the Cabinet Secretary and works
with agency staff to facilitate continuous improvement to the
In 2014, the Legislature enacted aboveground
storage tank regulation in response to a Jan. 9, 2014, incident that
left citizens in parts of nine counties temporarily without drinking
water. That legislation resulted in a new program within the Division
of Water and Waste Management to regulate aboveground storage tanks
in West Virginia.
Also in 2014, in recognition of the
integrated responsibilities between the Office of Administration and
the Information Technology Office as service components of the
department, the Office of Technology was moved under the chief of the
Office of Administration and the new office was named the Business
and Technology Office.
In November of 2017, the Chief of
the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation (AML) became the
Director of DLR. The AML was moved into the DLR and programs
under DLR were reorganized to more efficiently take advantage of
The AML Program, Special
Reclamation Program, and the Landfill Closure Assistance Program were
placed under Reclamation Programs. The Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA) program was moved to the Division of Water
and Waste Management under the Permitting branch. The
Leaking Above Ground Storage tank and Leaking Underground Storage
tank programs were moved to the Division of Water and Waste
Management, Office of Environmental Enforcement, combining all tank
programs in one Division.
The Remediation programs
(Voluntary Remediation, Superfund, Department of Defense, and
Brownfields) were combined under Remediation Programs and the REAP
program was moved to the Environmental Advocate’s Office to
facilitate the coordination of activities with the Youth
Environmental Program which was moved to the Advocate’s Office
DEP employees require levels of skill ranging
from the beginner to the seasoned worker, but primarily in scientific
and technical fields. The DEP is a statewide operation, headquartered
in Charleston. Operations are accomplished on a district or regional
level, based upon the program, thus requiring a workforce throughout
West Virginia. Many assignments require work in inclement weather and
over rough terrain. Certain positions are subject to exposure to
hazardous and/or toxic materials as well.
updated: April 2018)