Thursday, April 10, 2014

Meeting: EPA to discuss river clean up / Rattled By Industry Pollution, Residents Fear Drop In EPA Inspections And Enforcement

EPA to discuss river clean up

GoDanRiver staff | Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 2:12 pm 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies will hold an open house Monday in Danville for residents to discuss upcoming dredge work to clean up coal ash from near the Schoolfield Dam.

The event will take place 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Danville Community Market building at 629 Craghead St.

Representatives from the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health, city of Danville, U.S. Coast Guard and other participating agencies will attend.

The open house will provide an opportunity for residents to discuss on a one-on-one basis planning details for upcoming dredge work near the Schoolfield Dam.

There will be no formal presentation.

Rattled By Industry Pollution, Residents Fear Drop In EPA Inspections And Enforcement

Posted: Updated:

  • By 2018, the agency would conduct an average of 14,000 federal inspections and evaluations per year across the country. That’s a 33-percent dip from the annual EPA caseloads from 2005-09, and a 30-percent drop from 2012.
  • By 2018, the EPA would initiate an average of 2,320 civil judicial and administrative enforcement cases a year in the five-year span. The drop: 41 percent from 2005-09 figures, and 23 percent from 2012.
  • And, by 2018, the agency envisions concluding 2,000 civil judicial and administrative enforcement cases per year, a 47-percent dip from the caseloads in 2005-09, and a 33-percent cut from 2012.
The EPA said it intends to put its enforcement might behind major pollution cases across the country. Under its five-year plan, the agency would focus, for instance, on criminal cases “having the most significant health, environmental, and deterrence impacts.”
“The strategic decision to focus on high impact cases means that the overall number of cases will tend to be lower than in past years,” the EPA told the Center in a written statement. “We anticipate this strategy will result in a higher level of public health protection because of the significant impacts associated with the large cases, and the precedent they set for performance of large facilities across the country.”
Environmental advocates are not swayed. The planned reduction in federal enforcement comes as residents near industry fence lines say states are doing little to protect them.
Advocates: Cuts to impact minority, impoverished communities
“It’s this perfect storm,” said John Suttles, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit handling environmental cases in six states. “I think it’s a really dangerous situation.”
Suttles, based in North Carolina, points to recent environmental incidents in the state including the Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River. In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 29 years before taking office — a connection that has put the governor on the defensive over the state’s dealings with the utility giant.
Even before the spill, according to emails obtained by the Southern Environmental Law Center, state regulators consulted Duke Energy before seeking to exclude citizens from settlement talks over groundwater pollution triggered by the utility’s coal ash ponds.
Beginning in 2009, the Center for Public Integrity exposed the environmental perils of coal ash ponds. Earlier this year, the EPA announced it would begin regulating the disposal of coal ash as part of a settlement to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.
In the southeastern U.S., the environmental hazards extend beyond that one issue, said the law center, among those that have submitted comments to the EPA about its strategic plan.