DEP Post Still Illegal
(Editorial from the July 2, 1998 issue of the Charleston Gazette)
THREE more environmental and citizen action groups have joined the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and a Logan County activist in a lawsuit to remove state Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) Director Michael Miano.
The federal Clean Water Act prohibits former employees of regulated industries from involvement in water quality permitting for two years after leaving their industry jobs. Miano worked for Pittston Coal until late last year.
The conflict-of-interest ban applies to any government official who "has or shares" authority to approve pollution permits.
This is a very sensible rule. Regulating agencies should not be run by people who have just left the industries they'll be regulating. That leads to the "we in the industry" mind-set exemplified by former DEP Director Jack Caffrey.
Caffrey appointed several former industry lobbyists and lawyers to key state positions. He handpicked Miano as his replacement. The result is an unfortunate tilt toward the industry side of numerous debates, despite the efforts of many professionals within DEP.
As former Environmental Advocate Wendy Radcliff wrote on her last day on the job: "There are many good people in DEP who work very hard to preserve and protect the environment of West Virginia. "I am afraid that there are also those who do not understand the need to explore all sides to an issue. There are those who fail to understand that industry is not DEPís only scientific resource for decision-making."
We don't see how DEP lawyers can hope to fight this suit. The regulation is clear. Miano cannot legally be director. Gov. Cecil Underwood should do the taxpayers of this state a favor and eliminate the need for a costly lawsuit defense. Remove Miano, and replace him with someone who can legally do the job.
It's the right thing to do. _