Cross posted from Climate Ground Zero
Joe Hamsher and Sarah Seeds blocking the entrance to WV Department of Environmental Protection in Kanawha City.
Activists Block Entrance to DEP Headquarters, Condemn Failed Enforcement
CHARLESTON, W.V. — Protestors associated with Climate Ground Zero blocked
the entrance to the headquarters of the West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) today. Joe Hamsher, 23, and Sarah Seeds,
60, are chained to a concrete-filled metal barrel that is blocking the
entrance to the parking lot of the DEP office complex in Charleston. The
activists painted the following statement on the barrel: “Department of
Easy Permits: Closed.”
The human rights activists staged the sit-in in order to bring attention
to what they believe is the DEP’s failure to enforce the Clean Water Act
by permitting mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia.
“The DEP is taking part in sins of permission,” said Seeds. “Permitting
mountaintop removal is permitting the poisoning of this bioregion.”
The protestors specifically sought to shed light on the DEP’s new
permitting guidance for implementing water quality standards in the
coalfields, which it announced earlier this month. The new permitting
guidance, the protestors said, is meant to circumvent the federal
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) much stricter water quality
standards, thus paving the way for continued pollution of West Virginia’s
waterways by coal operators.
“There is no way to operate a mountaintop removal mine without violating
the Clean Water Act. Even Don Blankenship admitted that in Charleston when
he debated Robert Kennedy” said West Virginia native Joe Hamsher. “The DEP
ought to step up and do their job by enforcing the Clean Water Act. But
instead, Randy Huffman, and his boss Joe Manchin, try to find loopholes
According to the Charleston Gazette in an article published on August 12,
the DEP’s new permitting guidance is a direct response to the EPA’s
decision in April to more strictly regulate the amount of chlorides,
sulfides and heavy metals that coal operators are allowed to dump in West
Virginia’s streams and rivers.
Upon announcing the new guidelines, DEP secretary Randy Huffman called on
the EPA to give deference to its new policy. “We trust the EPA will give
deference to West Virginia’s guidance document, as it was created to
satisfy outlines in the Clean Water Act,” Huffman said.
On August 13, however, the EPA responded to the DEP in a public statement
that reaffirmed the federal agency’s regulatory authority over the DEP and
promised a review of the DEP’s new permitting guidance.
“We look forward to reviewing West Virginia’s new water quality guidance,”
wrote the EPA. “In the meantime, the EPA’s guidance stands and we will
continue to use it to ensure that mining permits issued in West Virginia
and other Appalachian states provide the protection required under federal
Meanwhile, activists with Climate Ground Zero say they will continue to do
everything they can to hold accountable the government agencies that
permit mountaintop removal mining.
“DEP will be held accountable for its crimes against West Virginia,” said
In addition to putting pressure on the DEP, Climate Ground Zero and its
allies will be gathering in Washington D.C. on September 25 through
September 27 for Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization to call for an end
to mountaintop removal mining and bring the issue to the national stage.