Press Release

Groups Call on U.S. EPA to Intervene as Kasich Administration, State EPA Putting Ohio Waterways at Risk

Associated Press investigation reports mounting expired coal mining water permits

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club sent a letter asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to require the Ohio EPA to act on 20 expired coal-mining Clean Water Act permits.

An Associated Press investigation published March 12, 2014 revealed Ohio EPA records show the majority of the expired pollution-discharge permits have expired since Gov. John Kasich took office in 2011, according to a public records request. Several holders of these expired permits, the AP reported, gave generously to Kasich’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, state campaign finance records show. One holder of an expired permit, Rosebud Mining, has corporate ties to Freedom Industries, the company behind the Charleston, West Virginia chemical spill in January that left hundreds of thousands of residents without safe drinking water.

For each expired permit in Ohio, the mining company holding the permit has applied for a renewal at the state EPA, but the agency has failed to process the renewal requests – often for several years. The lapse has allowed the companies to continue polluting without being compelled to follow new cleanup provisions under the federal Clean Water Act.

“In theory, these expired permits could go on forever, but in reality, this is greatly endangering Ohio’s rivers receiving the pollutants coal-mine operators can discharge under outdated permits,” said Nathan Johnson of the Ohio Environmental Council. “Getting these permits updated in Ohio cannot be delayed any longer. Our water is too important.”

Under the Kasich administration, the pace of coal permitting has also slowed significantly, according to internal Ohio EPA emails obtained by the AP. New individual coal permits issued dropped from five in 2011 to zero in 2013, while new general permits for coal discharge dropped from 19 in 2011 to five in 2013, the AP reported.

“We’ve asked the Governor for an explanation around the recent staffing changes at Ohio EPA and the he hasn’t responded in any serious way,” said Dan Sawmiller of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We are now necessarily asking the EPA to step in and force the Ohio EPA to act on these permits. Their leadership is the only way we can protect our water from coal-mining pollution.” 

The letter OEC and Sierra Club sent to the Region 5 EPA office argues the Ohio EPA has displayed a clear pattern of delay and avoidance in the renewal of the expired permits.

Contacts:

Nathan Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council, 614-949-6622, njohnson@theoec.org

Daniel Sawmiller, Sierra Club, 419-733-3145, daniel.sawmiller@sierraclub.org