EPA asked to take over Kentucky and West Virginia water pollution programs

January 15, 2015

Environmental groups filed a suit against the EPA last week, following a previous petition filed in 2010 where it was argued that Kentucky and West Virginia were not fulfilling legal requirements to enforce clean water rules. The EPA failed to respond to the concerns outlined in the petition, and area environmental groups say they are left with no choice but to sue in federal court.

Kentucky and West Virginia have been given the authority to implement several federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The 2010 petition claimed, "[the Kentucky Division of Water] does not have sufficient manpower or resources to adequately develop and review mining [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] NPDES permits. In Kentucky just four NPDES permit writers manage 2,353 mining NPDES permits (588 each). […]. Even West Virginia's staffing is woefully inadequate."

The petition also stated that weak pollution standards, lax procedures that allowed coal mine runoff into waterways, and a lack of adequate pollution assessment all make Kentucky and West Virginia incapable of strictly enforcing the rules they have been delegated. The petition demanded that the EPA take over the two states's water pollution programs. 

Adam Beitman, spokesman for the Sierra Club, one of the environmental agencies filing suit said of the 2010 petitions, "Those were formal petitions to the agency, which have a different legal status than lawsuits." When the EPA failed even to respond the groups decided to take more drastic action, he added. Kentucky regulators staunchly defend their efforts to clean up state waters.

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