I wish to clarify a recent article, which addresses several failures of the previous administration, to reassure readers that the state Department of Environmental Protection is diligent in its efforts to protect the environment from industrial harm.
The article was in reference to the recent culmination of multiyear negotiations between EPA, Alpha Natural Resources and several state agencies, including DEP, which resulted in $27.5 million in civil penalties.
I am proud to say that this unprecedented cooperative effort, taken on by the current administration, resulted in $4.125 million to finance clean water programs and projects across the state.
The article states that DEP was slow to acknowledge numerous and repeated violations by Alpha at the company’s Emerald and Cumberland mines in Greene County (“DEP Slow to Act on Mining Offenses,” March 7). That lack of review did not occur under this administration. The vast majority of Alpha’s violations occurred during the previous administration, dating back to 2006.
In fact, only three months after Tom Corbett was sworn-in as governor, DEP received notification that EPA was beginning an investigation into Alpha’s noncompliance. Under Mr. Corbett’s direction, DEP worked together with EPA as it conducted its investigation, providing all monitoring documentation, which assisted in determining the company’s violations.
In fall 2012, DEP signed a participation agreement and became an official partner in bringing Alpha into compliance and holding the company accountable for its environmental negligence.
I can assure you that today, DEP thoroughly reviews all water quality monitoring data submitted by mining operators. The EPA investigation into Alpha brought to light the lack of consistent and thorough review in the former administration’s process. An internal review of the program was conducted, and this administration solidified the process to eliminate any deficiencies.
The department values, encourages and takes seriously all complaints made by citizens or citizens groups. DEP appreciates organizations like the Citizens Coal Council for drawing attention to these important matters. The council itself should be pleased with the outcome of this consent decree and the role it played in bringing this to a successful conclusion.
Pa. Department of Environmental Protection