(07/07/2007)
The state Department of Environmental Protection has slashed a list of West Virginia streams targeted for extra protection nearly in half.

Gov. Joe Manchin has asked that 303 protected streams be reduced to 156 streams.

Manchin and WV legislators, after listening to coal industry lobbyists, requested the reduction.

The change will allow for several new mountaintop removal operations, where debris is used to fill in adjacent streams.

The protected designation allows a minimal amount of new pollution to enter a West Virginia stream.

Lara Ramsburg, a spokeswoman for Governor Manchin, says the new number is a prudent starting point that can go up or down.

West Virginia Environmental Council lobbyist Don Garvin says the new list is based on politics, not the law nor science.

The DEP will be submiting the new, shorter list to the Legislature for approval next year.

There will be comment at a public hearing scheduled for July 16th at the agency's headquarters in the Kanawha City area of Charleston.

Following Manchin's reduction plan, a federal judge ruled that settling ponds used to remove sediment from streams at mountaintop removal coal mines violates the Clean Water Act.

The ruling by US District Judge Chuck Chambers jeopardizes an industry-wide practice that's been used for decades.

Chambers also ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't have the authority to allow mines to discharge sediment into settling ponds.

Vivian Stockman, a leading environmentalist against mountaintop removal, says the movement against such practices will not be going away, but is getting stronger.

Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition says a federal court ruling says coal companies have violated the federal Clean Water Act.

"The industry practice has been illegal," She said.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers says the current practice violates a part of the law that protects streams at sediment treatment ponds built by the operators.

Stockman says it's very likely federal regulators and the industry will appeal the ruling.


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