Acid Mine Drainage

Charleston Daily Mail
August 14, 1992

Activists Seek Tighter Mining Rules

By Philip Nussel
Daily Mail Business Editor

State environmental leaders today promised to hand out leaflets at West Virginia University football games that show tourists frolicking in a stream polluted with orange acid mine drainage unless Gov. Gaston Caperton's environmental director tightens proposed coal mining regulations.

"These regulations are a slap in the face," Morgantown environmentalist Tom Rodd said at a news conference held in front of the state Division of Environmental Protection headquarters in Nitro.

Dave Callaghan, director of the environmental agency, has proposed several changes to coal mining regulation to fulfill a law passed by the Legislature during a special session last year. One of the law's provisions increases the amount of bonds coal operators must post when they mine the land.

The regulations are set to go into effect Nov. 1 following the present public comment period.

Environmentalists are complaining that present regulations are being "gutted" to give Callaghan too much discretion over the way bonds from defunct coal operators are cashed in and used for mine cleanups.

"These changes so increase the discretionary authority of the director that they subvert both federal and state law," said Cindy Rank, president of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Coal industry leaders said the environmentalists are exaggerating. They added that the regulations could put small- and medium-sized operators out of business because they increase bonding levels from $1,000 to $5,000 an acre.

"What they are doing is taking the two or three worst situations and painting the entire industry with the same brush," said Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Coal Association.

But Rodd, an attorney, promised to go to court - and go after the Caperton administration - if the proposed regulations aren't changed.

With television cameras rolling, Rodd put on a demonstration on acid mine drainage, which occurs if water from an abandoned mine is left untreated. Most acid seams are in northern West Virginia.

A waiter poured a glass of orange "Chateau Callaghan" mine drainage that had a dead fish in it. Rodd took a sip of it and promptly spit it out.

Caperton officials have defended their record on mine drainage. The governor announced Thursday that $14 million would be made available for such cleanups in the next four years.

About 2,000 miles of West Virginia streams are estimated to be polluted by such drainage, Caperton said.

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