Jim Oberstar, a founding father of the Clean Water Act, comments on the act’s 40th anniversary

St. Paul — Although he spent 35 years as a Congressman representing northeastern Minnesota, former U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar says one of his proudest legislative accomplishments took place before he was elected.

In late 1971, while on the staff of his congressional predecessor John Blatnik, Oberstar played a key role on the committee that wrote the Clean Water Act. This legislation became the cornerstone of environmental protection in the United States. In Minnesota, activities instigated under the Clean Water Act have transformed the Mississippi River from a dead river choked with sewage to a national recreation area.

See former Congressman Oberstar’s story on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/yhiz14ea.

More information on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, including historical photos of water pollution in Minnesota and a story on the act’s impact on Minnesota waters, is available on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.

Broadcast version

This year the nation is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act. Former Congressman James Oberstar, who helped write the act while on the staff of his congressional predecessor John Blatnik, counts the act as one of his proudest legislative accomplishments.

The Clean Water Act became the cornerstone of environmental protection in the United States. In Minnesota, activities instigated under the act have transformed the Mississippi River from a dead river choked with sewage to a national recreation area.

See an interview with Congressman Oberstar on the fortieth anniversary of the Clean Water Act on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Water Quality |


By John McFerrin

Ginny the Flying Squirrel over Blackwater Canyon

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reversed a lower court and kicked the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus to Latin scholars) off the list of endangered species. Over the last five years the squirrel has been added to or taken off the list three times.

A little history

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first placed the West Virginia northern flying squirrel on the endangered species list as an endangered species on July 1, 1985. At the time, the threats identified included: species rarity; habitat loss; human disturbance; and competition with, and transfer of, a lethal parasite from the more common southern flying squirrel.

In 1990, the Fish and Wildlife Service did a recovery plan covering the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. The recovery plan is a series of steps that the agency is supposed to take to help the species recover to the point that it can safely be taken off the endangered species list. If things went well, then the squirrel would first be moved to the less protective “threatened” listing. If things continued to go well, then it would be removed from Endangered Species Act protection altogether.

The historic range of the Squirrel is believed to correspond roughly to the distribution of old-growth red spruce and northern hardwood forests that existed prior to the extensive logging and accompanying fires that occurred at the turn of the 20th century in the Allegheny Highlands, a section of the Appalachian Mountains extending into West Virginia and Virginia. This historic range encompassed an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 acres of old-growth red spruce forests.

This habitat was important in both the decision to put the squirrel on the list and in the recovery plan. It got on the endangered species list in part because its original habitat had changed so that it was restricted to isolated areas at high elevations separated by vast stretches of unsuitable habitat. Its remaining habitat was under pressure from human disturbance such as logging and development of skiing or other recreational activities.

In the recovery plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed not to delist the squirrel until it had determined that the existence of the high elevation forests on which the squirrels depend is not itself threatened by introduced pests, such as the balsam wooly adelgid or by environmental pollutants, such as acid precipitation or toxic substance contamination.

In 2008 the Fish and Wildlife Service took the squirrel off the endangered species list. (In the jargon of the agency, it “de-listed” the squirrel.). At the time, it said that the recovery plan has been sufficiently successful that the squirrel could be removed from the list. The delisting meant that the squirrel would have to continue to survive as best it can without the special protections available to species which are on the endangered species list.

In kicking the squirrel off the list, the Fish and Wildlife Service did not contend that it had followed the recovery plan. The plan had specific goals and requirements for distribution of the squirrel, requirements that had not been met. Instead, it said that it had followed the general intent of the recovery plan and that the squirrel appeared to be holding its own.

In March, 2011, the United States District Court reversed the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Court held that following the intent of the original recovery plan was not enough. It is not sufficient to generally follow plan. The Endangered Species Act specifically calls for a plan setting out what the agency intends to do and how it will measure results. If it wants to change the plan or otherwise not follow the plan, the agency must announce that it is changing the plan and then follow a revised plan.

Neither is it sufficient, the Court ruled, for the species to hold its own. The goal of the Endangered Species Act is that species thrive, not just slow down on its road to extinction.

What just happened

In August, 2012, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, effectively reinstating the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to kick the squirrel off the list. The decision turned largely on the question of what a recovery plan really is. The District Court had held that a recovery plan had to be followed before a species could be delisted. If the Fish and Wildlife Service changed its mind and thought that a different recovery plan would work better, it could change the plan but so long as it was in place the Fish and Wildlife Service could not kick a species off the list without following it.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, on the other hand, said that the plan was not binding. Even if it never followed the plan, it could still delist a species if it thought it had made a recovery.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Fish and Wildlife Service. In federal courts it is the practice (backed up by legal precedent) to defer to the interpretations of statutes and regulations by the agency. If an agency has always taken the position that a regulation means one thing, a court will adopt that interpretation unless there is some language in the statute or regulation to the contrary.

Under this approach, if the Fish and Wildlife Service thinks that recovery plans are guides, not mandates, then the Court will assume that this is the correct interpretation of the law.

There was a dissenting opinion. One of the three judges thought that the Fish and Wildlife Service was required by law to follow the recovery plan before delisting the squirrel. She also noted that the Fish and Wildlife Service relied upon data that showed that the squirrel was “persisting”, meaning that it was still here, not yet extinct. She thought that the law required that it not just persist but recover.

Vocabulary lesson of the day

Even if they are called flying squirrels, they don’t actually fly. They stretch out the folds of skin that stretch from front legs to hind legs and glide. These folds are called the patagia, from the Latin patigium, meaning the border of a tunic. The singular form was adopted directly from the Latin as the singular patagium; patagia is the plural form.

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Federal Government,The Highlands Voice |


Finding out where the line is

By John McFerrin

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has invalidated a Final Guidance which had been issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Guidance was an attempt by the EPA to provide direction to states on how to regulate the water quality aspects of surface mining. The Court determined that the federal Clean Water Act did not give the EPA the authority to issue the Guidance.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, as well as the West Virginia Sierra Club and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, had intervened in the case in support of the EPA.

This is yet another skirmish in the ongoing battle over who should regulate coal mining. From an industry perspective, state officials should have the maximum possible control over regulation. The nominal justification for this position is that West Virginians know best the problems in West Virginia and can best address them. Buried not too deeply behind this justification is the realization that the coal industry has enormous political power in West Virginia. Regulation controlled by West Virginians would prove more congenial. From a citizens’ perspective, the coal industry is too politically powerful to be effectively regulated in West Virginia by West Virginians. They would prefer that some outside force-in this case the EPA-step in, provide oversight of West Virginia regulators, and encourage more vigorous enforcement. While few citizens have been consistently satisfied with the performance of the EPA, it does act as some check on state actions.

Congress made this battle inevitable by creating joint federal-state authority for regulation of the coal industry. Both the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the federal Clean Water Act establish state-federal partnerships. The two Acts establish national standards and then provide an opportunity for states to establish their own regulatory programs to carry out the purposes of the Acts. West Virginia has created such regulatory programs.

The battle arises because Congress took this divided approach. It could have stayed completely out of the pollution regulation business, allowing states to foul their air and water as they wished. It could have decided that federal agencies were going to do pollution regulation with no state involvement. Instead, it wrote statutes with lines running through them, lines that separate state and federal authority. Because the lines are not always clear, courts routinely have to decide whether someone has stepped over them.

The line at issue in this case was over water quality standards. Federal and state clean water laws require what are known as “water quality standards.” These are standards of how clean a stream needs to be-how many parts per million of various pollutants should be allowed in a stream. The Guidance that the EPA had issued effectively set water quality standards, primarily for water conductivity. Conductivity is a measurement that tells, in general terms, how much pollution is in the stream. High conductivity would tend to indicate that there is a lot of pollution in the stream. The Court ruled that setting water quality standards was a state function. Because of this, the EPA could not issue a guidance telling states that they had to set standards for conductivity or how to set them.

In issuing permits for mining, states establish what are known as “effluent limits.” These effluent limits decide how much pollution may be in the water leaving an operation. They are supposed to be set low enough that they will not cause a violation of the water quality standards. In other words, the water leaving an operation must be clean enough that it will not cause the water in the stream to become so dirty that it violates water quality standards.

Under the Clean Water Act, States have to decide if a particular effluent limit has the “reasonable potential” to cause violation of water quality standards. If the effluent limit does have that potential, then the state would have adjust the effluent limit.

Written by Administrator in: EPA,Federal Government,The Highlands Voice |

Abandoned Mine Clean-Up: Federal Funding Formula and State Uses Criticized


The Wall Street Journal features a front page story highlighting that four states and three Native American tribes have received $180 million in federal funding with few strings attached to clean up abandoned mines when their reclamation worries have been largely fixed. At issue is a change made in 2006 to the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program and a fund made up of fees imposed on coal companies meant to help clean up old sites and for reclamation efforts. The legislative change made disbursements to states “mandatory” instead of “discretionary” through the Congressional appropriations process, and consequently there is little funding left for other states with long-term clean up projects that may take decades.


According to the Department of Interior the top five states receiving AML funding in FY 2012 are:


  • Wyoming – $150 million
  • Pennsylvania – $67.2 million
  • West Virginia – $66.5 million
  • Kentucky – $47 million
  • Illinois – $24 million



Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Mining Matters |

Markey probes Interior crafting of new rule

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, is expressing concern about the Interior Department’s plan to develop rules to facilitate the reuse of coal ash in mine reclamation.

“Because [coal combustion waste] contains some of the world’s deadliest toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and selenium, its disposal and reuse poses unique challenges,” Markey wrote today in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Interior’s Office of Surface Mining confirmed last month that it is in the early stages of developing national regulations for the use of coal ash in mines. Numerous states already allow the practice, such as using the ash as fill material in reclaiming surface mines.

While U.S. EPA is working on developing regulations for the disposal of coal ash, OSM says it is not necessarily waiting for EPA to finish the process to issue its own guidelines.

Agency Director Joe Pizarchik was a champion of the practice when he was an environmental regulator in Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in mining applications for ash (Greenwire, June 12). OSM is reviewing a suite of Keystone State guidelines, according to a Federal Register notice this month.

A 2006 report by the National Academies’ National Research Council vouched for the viability of putting coal ash in mines as long as the government and companies followed proper safeguards. The report also suggested the need for a new test that can specifically address mine disposal issues.

Markey’s letter echoes environmentalist concerns. He wants to know the extent of OSM’s cooperation with EPA, its analysis of the risks and whether it has evaluated existing state programs or developed an inventory of sites.

“Filling mine shafts and reshaping destroyed mountains with coal ash may temporarily hide these toxic waste products,” said Markey, “but without the proper safeguards, there is no way to guarantee it won’t eventually reach drinking water supplies or impact the air we breathe.”

Boosters say not all coal ash is the same, arguing that much of the material is not more dangerous than common dirt. Environmentalists are skeptical of such claims and oppose reuse in mines out of pollution concerns.


Written by Administrator in: Coal Ash,Federal Government |


Several thousand tons of “transportation”

While nominally about extending highway and transit funding through September, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (HR 4348) which passed Congress in late June, 2012, was also about attempts to transport various legislators’ and industries’ pet projects into law. One of these was the provision that would have prohibited the United States Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste.

Such a provision had been in the version of the law passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Because it had not been in the version passed by the U.S. Senate, it was the subject of negotiation between the two bodies.

As part of the negotiations, Congressional negotiators deleted fromthe recently passed Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (HR 4348) a provision that would have prohibited the United States Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste. (Note: the Act also contained a provision to measures that would advance the controversial trans-Canada Keystone XL pipeline, a provision which was not in the final bill. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has not been involved in the dispute over the pipeline.)

In April of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed an amendment to the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 that would effectively pre-empt the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating coal ash, the waste from coal burning plants, as a hazardous waste. The measure was introduced by David McKinley (R-WV). About 140 million tons of coal ash are produced by power plants in the United States each year. There are about 1,000 active coal ash storage sites across the country.

According to the EPA, the ash contains concentrations of arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and other metals, but the coal industry has claimed there is less mercury in the ash than in a fluorescent light bulb. The EPA found in 2010, however, that the cancer risk from arsenic near some unlined “coal ash ponds was one in 50 — 2,000 times the agency’s regulatory goal. Additionally, researchers from the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and Sierra Club have documented water contamination from coal ash sites in 186 locations. The new bill would strip the EPA’s authority to regulate the ash and hand it over to the states.

Attention to the hazards of coal ash has grown since a devastating spill in eastern Tennessee in 2008, where a Tennessee Valley Authority storage pond poured more than 1.1 billion gallons of ash onto some 300 acres of nearby land, contaminating rivers, destroying homes and accumulating up to six feet of liquid-ash sludge in some areas. The disaster was five times larger, by some measures, than the BP oil spill and more than 100 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Since then, the EPA affirmed that toxins in the ash can seep into the ground and reach drinking water sources. The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) recently found that groundwater at 33 coal ash waste sites across the country were contaminated with levels of toxins that may violate a federal dumping ban. Beyond groundwater, residents living near plants complain that coal ash pollutes the air they and their children breath and coats their cars and homes.

According to a CNN in-depth report, which documents the health impacts experienced by a community that lives near a coal plant, over the past 30 years, several studies have found coal ash more radioactive than the waste from nuclear power plants.

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s most recent experience with coal ash is reflected in the litigation against the Albright ash dump that was reported in the March, 2011, issue of The Highlands Voice.

The EPA has been evaluating over the past two years whether to regulate this material as hazardous waste but has yet to make a ruling. In hopes of hastening the regulatory process, a coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on April 5, urging a judge to compel the EPA to make a ruling on the substance. Coal ash is currently considered a municipal solid waste, in the same ranking as household trash, despite its documented hazards.

“As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace,” Lisa Evans, a lawyer with Earthjustice, said in a statement.

The agency received some 450,000 public comments in response to its 2010 hearings and public comment period on the issue.

The House bill’s provision to turn the issue of coal ash over to the states was introduced by West Virginia Republican Representative David McKinley. According to Open Secrets, McKinley’s top campaign donors are from the coal industry.

Mr. McKinley claims that federal regulation of coal ash as a hazardous waste would impede job growth. The industry argues that the preferable use of coal ash is in products such as kitchen materials, cement, and bowling balls. Spokesmen for the industry claim that the uncertainty of not knowing how coal ash will be regulated is damaging coal ash recycling. Environmentalists call the recycling argument a red herring. They say electric utilities do not want to bear the cost of properly disposing of the material, including phasing out all wet dumps.

Note: Much of the material for this article came from a story in PRWatch, the on line publication of the Center for Media and Democracy, www.prwatch.org.

Written by Administrator in: Coal Ash,Federal Government,The Highlands Voice |


By John McFerrin

The negotiations that led to the “transportation bill” that is mentioned in two other stories in this issue (See stories on p. 1 and p. 4 of this issue) resulted in Congress’s recent failure to fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a principle source of funding for West Virginia’s parks, forests, and places for people to hunt and fish.

The Senate-passed version of the transportation bill included a provision to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund for two years at $700 million a year. In addition, this provision expanded access for hunting, fishing and recreational activities.

During U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives negotiations over the final provisions of a transportation bill agreement, this provision was dropped entirely from the bill at the request of a group led by a vocal minority within the House.

Republicans on the 47-member committee that convened on the transportation bill argued that scarce federal dollars that were being appropriated by the government on transportation should be spent on road and highway construction. Typical of the views of this minority were those expressed by Rep.Rob Bishop (R-Utah) who said that the federal government can’t manage the land it has now and there is no point to giving it the money to buy more land.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was created by Congress in 1965. It represented a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses revenue from one of our natural resources: offshore oil and gas. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

While these royalties are available every year to go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the process is not automatic. Congress still has to appropriate it. That was what was about to happen this year until the last minute compromise diverted it to other uses. As it has done most other years, Congress diverted much of the funding that was available to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The money went to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters.

As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal land acquisition needs estimated at more than $30 billion-including places vulnerable to development such as the Florida Everglades, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Civil War battlefields in Virginia and other precious places around the country. State governments also report needing $27 billion in LWCF funds for eligible local parks and recreation projects.

Around the country, the LWCF program has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including some of America’s most treasured assets such as Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the White Mountain National Forest, and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first federal refuge.

In West Virginia, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect West Virginia’s most special places and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Public lands such as the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Monongahela National Forest, Chief Logan State Park, and New River Gorge National River have all benefited. Forest Legacy Program grants, funded under LWCF, help protect working forestlands while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation at places such as the Potomac River Hills in Morgan County. LWCF state assistance grants have supported hundreds of projects across West Virginia’s state and local parks.

Over the duration of the program, funding for LWCF has varied yearly, falling drastically in the last few years to total less than $100 million in 2007. In 2010, the Department of the Interior collected approximately $5.2 billion from offshore energy production, but only $306 million, or about seven percent of that revenue, went to federal and stateside LWCF.

Today, the four federal land management agencies (National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management) estimate the accumulated backlog of deferred federal acquisition needs to be around $30 billion. Opportunities to protect fish and wildlife habitat, provide public access for recreation, preserve our nation’s most notable historic and cultural sites, and protect scenic vistas are being lost every day to development.

The LWCF state assistance program provides matching grants to help states and local communities protect parks and recreation resources. Running the gamut from wilderness to trails and neighborhood playgrounds, LWCF funding has benefited nearly every county in America, supporting over 41,000 projects. This 50:50 matching program is the primary federal investment tool to ensure that families have easy access to parks and open space, hiking and riding trails, and neighborhood recreation facilities.

Over the life of the program, more than $3 billion in LWCF grants to states has leveraged more than $7 billion in nonfederal matching funds. But funding levels have been unpredictable and the average annual appropriation since fiscal year 1987 is a mere $40 million-despite the need for millions more.

Today, the National Park Service reports that the unmet need for outdoor recreation facilities and parkland acquisition at the state level is $27 billion. While the LWCF alone cannot address all state park needs, it is a critical federal partnership with our nation’s state and local parks and communities. There are numerous pending and proposed projects in West Virginia that are in need of continued LWCF funding.

Before the Congressional compromise that resulted in funds available for the Land and Water Conservation Fund being diverted to other uses, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy advocated in support of full fund of the Fund.

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,The Highlands Voice |




By Miriam Raftery


June 24, 2012 (Washington D.C.) – A scathing new report by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Inspector General highlights “significant failures” by the federal Bureau of Land Managment in its stewardship over more than 30,000 wind energy right-of-way (ROW) acres and another 31,000 acres of solar energy ROW sites. View the complete report at http://www.doioig.gov/images/stories/reports/pdf/CR-EV-BLM-0004-2010Public.pdf,

In addition, the report exposed “weakness in financial accountability and resource protection including obligations to protect the Government’s financial interest by collecting rental revenues, managing the bond process, and by appropriate monitoring and enforcing ROW requirements.”

The BLM is poised to add another 21 million acres identified with wind energy development potential and over 20 million acres for potential solar energy facilities, raising serious concerns over enforcement of mitigation requirements for impacts on public lands.

In Palm Springs the BLM failed to adequately bond four wind projects, including one with 460 turbines “leaving BLM at risk to future liabilities for land reclamation and the potential damage to natural resources,” the report stated.

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Wind Energy |

Please Support LWCF in Transportation Package

To West Virginia Highlands Conservancy:


As a conservation advocate in West Virginia, you know all too well the importance of safeguarding treasured places from development. One of our big priorities here at Environment America has been advocating for full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)- a 48 year old program that uses some of the royalties from offshore drilling to fund national and local parks and recreation projects, and preserves natural areas across the country.  West Virginia has received approximately $221 million over the past four decades, protecting places such as the New River Gorge National River and the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.  Unfortunately, year after year, Congress breaks its commitment to conserving essential land and waterways and diverts most of these funds.


Right now, we have what maybe the best opportunity we’ll have this year to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Funds is guaranteed at least $700 million for the next two years. Please consider signing your organization onto this statement by the end of next week so that we can show Congress how important it is to our local communities that LWCF be included in the final Transportation bill this year.


We urge your organization to not only sign onto the statement, but also encourage you to pass it along to the network of partners groups you work with and encourage them to sign on as well.  In this way, we can reach more and more people like you across the country who understand how important LWCF is.


If you have questions or would like to sign the statement, please email me back or contact Lindsey Levick at The Wilderness Society (lindsey_levick@tws.org.) The letter is included below for your consideration.


Thanks for your help,

Kate Dylewsky

Preservation Assistant


Environment America

218 D St. SE, 2nd floor

(202) 683-1250

Actions for Spring 2012

Follow us on Twitter: @lwcfcoalition 

Please Support LWCF in the Transportation Bill Debate

Urge your member to include LWCF in the final package-

Click here for talking points!

www.house.gov or www.senate.gov

Also: Sign Your Organization onto the:

Statement of Support for LWCF!!

(Click HERE for downloading and sharing the statement)

Statement can also be found below

Email info@lwcfcoalition.org to sign on!

Senate Transportation Bill PASSES with LWCF Amendment!! Click here for Printable Factsheet on Transportation Bill

Please Support LWCF in Transportation Package:

Sign-On Statement

   Check out the LWCF Projects in the Presidents FY13 Budget, click below:

As a broad coalition of sportsmen, business, recreation, veterans, historic preservation and conservation leaders concerned with America’s outdoor heritage, we express our strong support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provision included in the Senate-passed Transportation bill.  This provision, which was approved on the Senate floor with an overwhelming 76 bipartisan votes, directly addresses several of the most urgent conservation, access and funding problems facing American hunters and anglers, outdoor businesses, and recreationists today at the same time that it provides for state and local recreation projects, working forest and ranching easements and protection of our unique American history.  As the Transportation conference between the House and Senate proceeds, we strongly urge that the LWCF amendment passed in the Senate is included in the final legislation.

LWCF represents a promise that was made to the American people almost 50 years ago to take the proceeds from natural resource development in our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and invest a small portion of those dollars in conservation and outdoor recreation.  It is an incredibly successful bipartisan program that, in its nearly five decades of existence, has touched all fifty states and nearly every county in America.  Despite that success, however, the central promise of LWCF has remained largely unfulfilled– almost every year in its half-century of existence, only about one-third of LWCF’s authorized funding has actually been directed to its intended conservation purpose.  Every part of the LWCF program is oversubscribed, with the demand for state and local recreational needs, access for sportsmen, working lands opportunities and conservation driven by strong local support far exceeding the funds that have been available.

The Senate-passed amendment represents a critical opportunity to begin addressing the backlog of unmet needs this diversion has created, and build a solid base of state, local and national recreation as well as conservation funding in the short-term while we continue working toward a permanent fix.  As a reminder:

  • LWCF is already paid for – without using a single taxpayer dollar.  Every year, $900 million is deposited into LWCF from the many billions of dollars the Treasury collects from offshore oil drilling and other federal energy revenue sources.  Congress created LWCF with a simple idea in mind: when we sell oil and gas that belongs to all Americans, at least a small portion of the proceeds should be reinvested in something of lasting value for us all.  NO tax dollars or other general revenues are used for LWCF. 
  • The Senate LWCF Provision Funds Only Willing-Seller Conservation.   The Senate language guarantees that any land purchase under the bill – as is typically the case for LWCF purchases – will be from willing sellers.  Across America, landowners needing to sell their properties want to see those lands conserved for public use.  Providing LWCF funds honors their property rights as willing sellers, including their rights to fair compensation, and their public-spirited intent as landowners.  The Senate language explicitly ensures that property rights will be respected and that landowners will be treated fairly.
  • The LWCF Provision Expands Recreation Access for Hunting, Fishing, and Other Public Use.  LWCF is essential to make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are limited or precluded.  Language in the Senate bill that is strongly supported by sportsmen ensures a sustained commitment to resolving access issues long after the bill’s two-year term.  The Senate LWCF provision opens more land to the public.
  • LWCF also provides critical funding to states for state and local park needs as well as funding for the Forest Legacy Program, which allows for working lands easements keeping jobs in the woods throughout the country.

• LWCF supports a vibrant and important part of our nation’s economy.  The Senate-passed amendment ensures continued investments in the economic asset that our federal, state and local public lands represent.   The parks, trails, forests, wildlife refuges, battlefields, historic sites, and working lands sustained by LWCF funding support an outdoor recreation and tourism sector that contributes a total of $1.06 trillion annually to the American economy, supporting 9.4 million jobs (1 out of every 15 jobs in the U.S.).

We are well aware that difficult choices must be made in this time of fiscal austerity.  As we measure those choices based on their effects on America’s people, communities, and economy, the need for sustained investments through LWCF is clear.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund has long been supported in a bipartisan fashion with important oversight provided by Congress through the Appropriations Committees.  As Congress considers how best to meet our nation’s infrastructure needs, we urge inclusion of the LWCF provision in the final transportation bill as an historic step forward to provide this country with the critical recreation infrastructure necessary for strong economic growth.

National Park Service FY13 LWCF Projects

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service FY13 LWCF Projects

Forest Service FY 13 LWCF Projects

Forest Legacy FY13 LWCF Projects

Collaborative Landscape Planning Projects FY 13

Land and Water Conservation Fund- National Park Service – 2011 Annual Report

 New! LWCF Activist Plan!

Click here for Economic Benefits and Outdoor Recreation Talking Points for LWCF

FY13 Senate Dear Colleague (Did Your Member Sign-On?)

FY13 House Dear Colleague (Did Your Member Sign-On?)

Written by Administrator in: Environment,Federal Government,Public Lands |

Interior Secretary Salazar Designates National Natural Landmarks in California, West Virginia



WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–May 18, 2012.  As part of the 50th anniversary of the National Natural Landmarks Program this month, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has designated Lake Shasta Caverns, a pristine cave in northern California, and Ice Mountain, an unusual geological phenomenon called glacière talus in West Virginia, as national natural landmarks.

“With the addition of these two outstanding sites, we now have 593 national natural landmarks, representing the extraordinary geological and ecological diversity of our nation,” Salazar said. “These designations provide a means to work in voluntary partnership with public and private landowners to research, monitor and preserve our natural treasures for generations to come.”


Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Public Lands |


By Cindy Rank

For Julius Caesar the Ides of March was a terribly unlucky day… For us here in West Virginia the 15th of March 2012 slipped by with nary a peep… But just one week later the news was far less than encouraging.

On March 23, 2012, a federal court in the District of Columbia overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of one of the worst mountaintop removal mines permits ever issued in U.S. history, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.

In response to litigation filed by Mingo Logan Coal Company a Federal District Court judge in the District of Columbia ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exceeded its legal authority in blocking the huge Spruce #1 mine in Blair, West Virginia.

Pigeonroost Hollow (Photo courtesy of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition)

Supported by a 34 page opinion the order in brief states:

ORDERED that the “Final Determination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pursuant to § 404(c) of the Clean Water Act concerning the Spruce No. 1 Mine, Logan County, West Virginia” dated January 13, 2011 (Final Determination) is vacated in its entirety; ORDERED that Mingo Logan’s permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to section 404 of the Clean Water Act, DA Permit No. 199800436-3 remains valid and in full force.

Judgment is entered in favor of Mingo Logan Coal Company Inc. and against the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This is a final appealable Order.

The history of this mine permit, the litigation and studies and administrative reviews surrounding the proposal and the involvement of the WV Highlands Conservancy are well documented in numerous issues of the Highlands Voice over the past fifteen years.

In this most recent action when Mingo Logan sued EPA over its veto of the fill permit for Spruce No 1, the WV Highlands Conservancy, along with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and Sierra Club were represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates in a friend of the court brief.

We believed then and we continue to believe that the EPA was right to veto the permit, because if the proposed 2,278 acres are mined the operation will destroy over six more miles of the ecologically rich Pigeonroost and Oldhouse Branches of Spruce River of the Little Coal River and will bring further harm to the people living near the mine, many of whom have already suffered overwhelming impacts of nearby mountaintop removal already under operation.

40 years ago Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect Americans from the very harms that mountaintop removal and other large scale coal mining are now imposing on families and communities throughout Appalachia. Then and now the Clean Water Act makes it clear that EPA has broad legal authority to protect our waters and the communities that use and enjoy them — and it is essential for EPA to do so before our waterways are gone for good.

We were inspired and hopeful when more than 50,000 people across the country submitted comments backing EPA’s 2011 veto of the Spruce permit and hope the powers that be don’t back down now.

We believe the EPA has a very strong case and we will do what we can to encourage the agency to appeal the federal court’s ruling and to support it in that action.


Clean Water and the Spruce Mine


The Obama administration’s decision last year to revoke a permit for a huge mine in West Virginia inspired hope that mountaintop mining, which has caused immense environmental damage across Appalachia, would soon be coming to an end. Now a Federal District Court judge in the District of Columbia has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its legal authority in blocking the mine. The administration must appeal. The Clean Water Act is on its side, as are the people of West Virginia.


Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Mountaintop Removal,Water Quality |

Appalachians Vow to Continue Supporting EPA’s Effort to Protect Waterways and Communities from Mountaintop Removal Mining



March 23, 2012


Contact: Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5237, ljudge@earthjustice.org

Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 474-2887 x 102, 512.289.8618, oliver.bernstein@sierraclub.org

Cindy Rank, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, (304) 924-5802, clrank2@gmail.com

Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch, (304) 854-2182, vernoncrmw@gmail.com

Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, (304) 360-1979, vivian@ohvec.org


Appalachians Vow to Continue Supporting EPA’s Effort to Protect Waterways and Communities from Mountaintop Removal Mining

District court rules in case involving issue of EPA authority to protect waters

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today ruled in the case where industry has attacked the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the extremely destructive Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia.

The following is a statement from the environmental and community groups who were granted amicus curiae status by the court —  Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by attorneys at Earthjustice and Appalachian Mountain Advocates:

“It is a sad day not only for the people who live near mountains and streams threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining, but for all Americans who understand the need to protect our waterways, and the health of communities that depend on them. We are deeply disappointed and concerned about the effect of today’s court ruling because mountaintop removal mining has already caused widespread and extreme destruction to the mountains, waters, and communities of Appalachia. The Spruce No. 1 Mine permit, in particular, was one of the largest mountaintop removal permits ever proposed in Appalachia, and it is located in an area of West Virginia that has already been devastated by several large mountaintop removal mines.

“We need EPA to be able to fully protect our waters. This egregiously harmful coal mining practice, which decimates mountains and buries streams with mining waste, is linked to grave health threats for families and communities across the region. Waters are being buried and contaminated at unprecedented rates in Appalachia, and numerous scientific studies show that the people in this region are suffering greatly. As EPA appropriately found, the Spruce No. 1 Mine would cause unacceptable harm to waters of the United States, and it should not be allowed to go forward.

“Appalachian people are struggling to stop the permanent destruction of their treasured waters and communities. We urge the EPA to continue exercising its full authority under the law to protect these iconic landscapes and waters.

“Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect Americans from the very circumstances that mountaintop removal coal mining is now imposing on Appalachian families. The 40-year-old Clean Water Act makes it clear that EPA has broad legal authority to protect our waters and communities’ clean water — and it is essential for EPA to do so before our waterways are gone for good.


“We urge the EPA to appeal today’s ruling and continue to exercise its full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect waterways and communities. The Army Corps should also exercise its authority to recognize the clear science and revoke or suspend the permit. Severe harm would occur if the company is allowed to dump mining waste.  Our groups are committed to fighting for clean water and justice in Appalachia until the people in Appalachia get the protections we so deserve.”


Earthjustice (www.earthjustice.org) is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.




Liz Judge

Campaign Manager, Communications

1625 Massachusetts Ave. NW Suite 702

Washington, D.C. 20036

Office Direct: 202.797.5237*

Cell: 970-710-9002



Because the earth needs a good lawyer

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Mountaintop Removal |

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