Governor Manchin: Picking the Wrong Battle for W.Virginia

WV Governor suing the EPA for policies which protect the people of his state

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Today, we learned that West Virginia’s Governor, Gov. Joe Manchin, is suing the EPA for its policies to strengthen watch over the state’s biggest polluter, the coal mining industry and to ensure that mining does not put the people of the state and their water supplies directly in harm’s way, compeletely devalue their property and turn their communities into wrecking zones for coal corporations.

He’s joined the National Mining Association in suing the EPA over its recent guidance on mountaintop removal mining and its permitting process for mountaintop removal operations. The guidance is based on two new scientific studies, both affirmed and validated by an independent science advisory board, which reveal new information about mountaintop removal mining’s impacts on waterways in Appalachia.

The guidance is meant to provide EPA field staff with a better, more secure, more scientifically sound way of protecting waters from irreversible harm — and with a more responsible way of permitting these mining operations.

The travesty is that as long as mountaintop removal mining is allowed — which the EPA is still doing — our waters are not being protected.

As long as mining companies are able to dump all their mining waste directly into streams and bury thousands of miles of streams with this waste, which then contaminates drinking water supplies and obliterates the environment, our communities are not being protected. The EPA’s guidance is not ending the environmental and public health and welfare disaster in Appalachia that is mountaintop removal mining; it is merely trying to reign it in from an era of freedom from responsibility and freedom from regulation (thanks, President Bush).

Even more importantly, Gov. Manchin’s lawsuit against the EPA is just plain wrongheaded. He claims that he is suing the EPA to protect West Virginia’s "way of life." Can this be for real? He must know what numerous studies have shown: That the coal industry, and especially its practice of mountaintop removal mining, is costing the state more in subsidies and medical costs (due to higher cancer and illness rates in heavy mining areas) than it is giving back in revenues and economic benefits. How can he not know that West Virginia can’t afford more mountaintop removal?

In his report on this news today,The New York Times‘/Greenwire‘s Patrick Reis posits a different explanation for the lawsuit. Erik Eckholm of The New York Times also explained Manchin’s move to sue the EPA.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson fought back promptly today with the following:


Despite many efforts by EPA, state officials have not engaged in a meaningful discussion of sustainable mining practices that will create jobs while protecting the waters that Appalachian communities depend on for drinking, swimming and fishing. … The EPA’s number one priority is to protect the health of all Americans and the guidance allows the people of West Virginia and other states to have both a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.