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Three Cheers for WV Enviro Victories!
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by compiled by Jim Sconyers and Jim Kotcon | 2011

Hard won victories are few and far between, so we will be celebrating these this spring and summer and at our 2011 SierraFest on October 1st!

There are frequent and important victories for the environment in West Virginia. Often they are unsung victories. So here we want to share just a few recent victories that should be sung! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

PATH

Remember PATH? The multibillion-dollar boondoggle that turns out not even to be needed? After a long campaign, the states targeted by PATH have walked away in disgust. The project — that would have ruined homesteads, and promoted expanded mountaintop removal and dirty coalfired electric power — is dead.

Methyl IsoCyanate (MIC)

This is the chemical that killed thousands and injured many more thousands at Bhopal. After years of citizen pressure and activism, as well as legal challenges, plant owner Bayer finally and  reluctantly agreed that a major West Virginia metropolitan center is not the right place for this lethal toxin. The company has announced that it will no longer store or manufacture MIC in its Charleston-area plant.

Coal Ash

State regulators agreed with area citizens and their attorneys that the massive New Hill West mine, whose ugly presence mars the I-79 portal to the state from the north, is not entitled to go ahead with an expansion, at least not for now. At issue, among other concerns, is the proposed dumping there of millions of tons of toxic coal ash from area coal-fired power plants, with the very real possibility of polluting groundwater aquifers.

MTR

Dubbed the worst ongoing environmental catastrophe in the nation by many, mountaintop removal coal mining has been under intense scrutiny by Sierra Club and other West Virginia groups. Litigation often focuses on the seeming anomaly of the companies monitoring their pollution, recording it and reporting it to the state as required, documenting their own violations of their permits ... and nothing happens. Many legal challenges have been won recently, requiring coal operators to stop unless and until they can mine within the law. What a concept. One recent example: Patriot was required to treat its selenium pollution with a process that will cost them $45 million.

TransGas Coal-To-Liquids facility


The West Virginia Chapter won another round when the WV Air Quality Board ordered WV-DEP to re-write the air pollution permit for this $3.6 billion facility. DEP had allowed the company to omit key pollution emissions and underestimate others. This ruling may force TransGas to declare the facility as a “major source,” thereby requiring the use of Best Available Control Technology. The company will also have to identify water resources they will use and specify water pollution controls. Coal-To-Liquids is an incredibly bad idea, releasing far more greenhouse gases than the petroleum it replaces. The ruling is one step in the right direction.

Even though the numerous victories for the environment in West Virginia are not always well-publicized, we need to celebrate them ... Three cheers!

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