Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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CRMW Follow-up
Letter to DEP

Timmermeyer's response
to our visit (pdf)

OVEC Response to Timmermeyer

Environmental chief predicts faster permits

Timmermeyer touts faster mine permitting

This Land is Your Land

Given to DEP
Grievances and Demands



Citizens Fed Up With WV DEP

February 10, 2005
Photos by Vivian Stockman

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Agency must consider needs of coalfield residents, not just coal barons

Though snow blew and temperatures dropped, about 40 people converged on the West Virginia Department of (so-called) Environmental Protection. We came to air our grievances to DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer, who had recently told state legislators that she was striving to speed up the mountaintop removal permitting process (see sidebar).

Five of the action participants arrived in Charleston from Huntington, via a veggie-oil-powered vehicle, but that's another story. We were joined by French TV New York, here to film a story about coal and global warming.

We kept our convergence upon DEP secret, as the last time we tried to meet en masse with DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer, she got wind beforehand and avoided us.

This time, she knew that we knew she was in the building. We milled around in the lobby, waiting for her to agree to see us and singing a song led by guitarist T. Paige Dalporto (see sidebar for lyrics). We were soon escorted back to a meeting room, where we presented a list of demands (see sidebar).

Ms. Timmermeyer was angry that we didn't book a meeting with her via proper channels and said she would meet with us anytime we asked. That's funny, as that is not what we found to be the case in the past. She prefers to have her underlings meet with us. Ms. Timmermeyer then denied that she had told legislators she would speed up the permitting process. She was merely talking about how too many reviewers have the permits land on their desks, she explained. That's funny, because the legislative committee meeting was presented as session about speeding up permits.

We told Ms. Timmermeyer how we had asked the DEP for quite some time for citizen trainings on how to read permits, as well as for earlier citizen input into the permitting process. Many citizens feel that by the time we are allowed to comment on mountaintop removal permits, the permits are already a done deal. Someone asked Ms. Timmermeyer if she had ever denied a permit. After a pause, she said she was unprepared for the meeting and couldn't answer. Someone did remind her that she had denied one in a northern trout stream. She noted that the company changed its application, and the permit was granted.
One disabled former mine worker (sick from coal prep plant chemical poisoning) described the dangers of coal sludge impoundments. He helped construct them, he knows.  Timmermeyer asked to meet with him and a DEP engineer for further discussions.
Timmermeyer agreed to hold citizen trainings, perhaps see about getting citizens involved in the permit process and to look into the matter of a coal silo at a coal prep plant very close to Marsh Fork Elementary, where several students and teachers have died from cancer.  

Perhaps, before falling asleep on Feb. 10,  Ms. Timmermeyer considered the anger, frustration and extensive problems her agency causes coalfield residents and water drinkers and air breathers across the state.

Our action, organized by Coal River Mountain Watch and OVEC, was part of a multi-state, multi-group day of action against mountaintop removal coal mining.

Brrr. Below freezing temperatures, gusting winds and snow showers couldn't stop us from converging on the DEP.

We hear you Julian!

Here we come DEP!

The crowd of about 40, along with French TV New York, gathers in the DEP foyer.

Singing a modifeid version of "This Land is Our Land."

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