At 9 a.m., four protesters entered the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) in Charleston, WV and locked themselves to the office entrance. They are demanding that the agency hand over control of key programs to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and that WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman resign. Around them, dozens of demonstrators reiterated those demands. Locked to the doors of WVDEP, the four protesters displayed a sign that read "Closed Due to Incompetence, Department of Encouraging Pollution."
"The WVDEP ignores or dismisses citizen complaints and refuses to exercise their duty to shut down operations with repeat violations or to deny permits to operators with outstanding violations," retired West Virginia coal miner Chuck Nelson declared. "It is imperative that we restore the enforcement of all mining laws, so that citizen's civil and human rights are upheld, and our families and homes are protected from the impacts of mining, and from the hazards of industrial waste."
Since February there have been twelve protests in West Virginia demanding an end to mountaintop removal, and over 90 citizens have been arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Jeff Biggers blogged on the action this morning on Huffington post:
This protest follows on the heels of two formal petitions filed by Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. The petitions ask OSMRE to take over enforcement of the Stream Buffer Zone rule and EPA to take over enforcement of water pollution limits.
"Given West Virginia's refusal to enforce the law in the face of coal industry interests, we believe that the only remedy that will protect the State's essential environmental resources is for OSM to substitute federal enforcement, in whole or in part, of the state's surface mining program."
Click to read the entire petition here.