The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Cabinet Secretary, Randy Huffman, spoke to the Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining today. He was asked to give a report on the status of mining permits that are currently undergoing review by the Environmental Protection Agency.
During his presentation to the committee, Huffman announced that the agency is in the process of establishing a protocol for implementing and enforcing the state’s narrative water quality criteria.
The lack of a solid plan for enforcing the narrative standard is the main criticism the EPA has had with the state of West Virginia’s regulation of mountaintop mining activities over the past year. However, Huffman pointed out to the committee that the standard doesn’t apply to just surface mining or mining in general, but has implications for all types of industrial activities.
As part of the process for establishing a state protocol, the DEP is researching what other states are doing as well as seeking input from interested parties within the state.
“Water quality has become the main topic of conversation across all types of industry, and there is a great deal of debate about what is or should be considered impairment,” Huffman said. “Our goal is to take into consideration the ideas of others as we develop our plan for implementing and enforcing the narrative standard.
“I’m not looking for data and reports, I have that,” he said. “Nor do I intend to debate the pros and cons of coal mining. What I am looking for are well-thought-out ideas on how we can measure aquatic life impacts and tie those impacts back to the problem where we can then fix it, using the tools of the Clean Water Act.
“The protocol we establish will be our own, but we want to give those who want to propose a solution the opportunity to have their ideas considered,” Huffman said.
Those who would like to submit ideas or scientific theories for how the agency should implement and enforce the narrative water quality standard are invited to do so by March 26. Submissions can be emailed to DEP.firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
The Department of Environmental Protection
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304
All submissions will be placed on the agency’s website for public review.