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Feb. 2 update: 46 organizations now signed on!
Update: Hours after the petition went up, new DEP Secretary Caperton filled the position of Environmental Advocate. Caperton did not bother consulting with those who are most harmed when extractive and other industries break DEP rules and regulations.
West Virginians have a real need for a fair and trusted environmental advocate at the DEP. Maguire may turn out to be fine as the new Environmental Advocate, but Caperton might consider that respect for transparency and a commitment to process are essential to building trust with the community members his agency is charged with protecting.
As the Charleston Gazette editorialized:
Caperton (is) , a long-time coal operator.When he was named to safeguard the state’s air, water and soils, West Virginians might have reasonably wondered how serious a former coal company owner would be about that mission. After all, the DEP and the companies they regulate are often in adversarial roles. The agency is trying to enforce environmental protection laws, and companies naturally want to minimize expenses and delays those laws can cause.
Firing a successful and well-regarded environmental advocate does nothing to dispel those worries.
Original post: The Environmental Advocate at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection helps citizens navigate the agency. Last week, on Friday January 27, newly appointed DEP Secretary Austin Caperton abruptly fired DEP’s trusted and respected Environmental Advocate Wendy Radcliff.
40 organizations have signed a letter stating:
The organizations listed below are dismayed to hear that you dismissed Wendy Radcliff. We are also deeply troubled that you would take such action without input from the environmental community and the many citizens who turn to that Office for assistance in dealing with the complex regulatory programs of the agency.
The letter goes on to say:
Transparency is essential to the integrity of your position and public confidence in your agency. We request that you publicly explain the process you will engage in to fulfill your statutory requirements to hire someone for the legally mandated full time position of Environmental Advocate. Ensuring that process will include input from the public is essential. To that end we trust you will honor the tradition of accepting nominations for the position from the environmental community, a tradition begun with the creation of WV DEP and the Office of Environmental Advocate in 1994.
Read the entire letter and see the list of groups that signed it below. As the letter was being delivered, other groups were just getting word and signing on, including the Cabell/Huntington Branch of the NAACP, Friends of the Cheat, Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Appalachian Catholic Workers, Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, and Friends of the Cacapon River.
A copy of the letter went to Governor Jim Justice.