50,000 voices for clean water in West Virginia

50,000 voices for clean water in West Virginia

I was honored to stand with West Virginians as they took 50,000 petition signatures for clean water, including 20,000 from Environmental Action members to the Office of Surface mining this week. It was an amazing moment that brought home just how important it is never to forget the people impacted by environmental disasters. Johanna De Graffenreid, our partner in raising $2500 for clean water deliveries, took a moment to record this moving thank you for all of us who helped. Her account of the day is below, which included a meeting with government officials who said they had never seen a report this thorough.

West Virginians Call for Real Enforcement
50,000 petition for federal intervention in W.Va. Dept. of Environmental Protection

by Johanna de Graffenreid : CARE Campaign Coordinator

On February 11th, West Virginians faced yet another coal slurry spill into their waters. Charged with enforcing surface mine regulations under the Surface Mine Reclamation and Control Act (SMCRA), the West Virginia state regulatory agency has consistently failed to protect communities. The recent 100,000-gallon coal slurry spill into a West Virginia creek that flows into the Kanawha River on Feb. 11th was followed by yet another coal slurry spill in McDowell County on Feb. 19th.

Rob Goodwin, a technical expert at Coal River Mountain Watch, has been investigating the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “The West Virginia DEP has allowed the ground water and much of the surface water resources in this state to be destroyed by coal – forcing everyone to be hooked up to a huge corporation-owned water system where they have no rights or control over where their water comes from.” Goodwin explained.

State regulators in West Virginia routinely fail to hold the coal industry accountable for its pollution. The West Virginia CARE Campaign has petitioned the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to intervene in the West Virginia DEP to ensure safe water, air and communities for West Virginia residents. The 18 CARE Campaign partners and allied groups collected over 50,000 signatures in support of that legal petition.  Individuals across the country signed on in support of the DOI and OSM institute real enforcement in West Virginia.

Prior to the petition being accepted by Chris Holmes (of OSM), and Francisco Carrillo (Deputy Director of Interior's Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs), the CARE Campaign met with OSM Director, Joe Pizarchik.  

"Members of West Virginia Citizen Action for Real Enforcement (WV CARE) and I had a productive meeting today, during which they shared their concerns. OSM takes these concerns seriously.  We will review what the group submitted today and follow up with WV CARE members about the issues raised." stated Pizarchik.

The West Virginia CARE Campaign will continue to encourage the OSM to urgently intervene into our failed WV DEP, and stand with impacted community members.  Join us to ensure real enforcement in West Virginia! Sign the petition here.