As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited a Pennsylvania coal mine with a history of polluting local waterways today, Environment America’s clean water program director John Rumpler released this statement:
Over the span of nearly a decade, the Consol Energy mine in Harvey, Pennsylvania dumped millions of pounds of pollution into local waterways, for which EPA recently assessed the company a $3 million penalty.
Administrator Pruitt’s decision to highlight this polluting facility is deeply troubling for clean water and public health. Holding polluting companies like Consol accountable takes significant resources. Yet the administration’s proposed budget includes massive cuts to environmental enforcement, which would hamstring EPA’s ability to hold other water polluters like Consul accountable in the future.
Moreover, Pruitt’s plans to dismantle the Clean Water Rule would also jeopardize EPA’s authority to enforce the law in a case like Consol. The violations at the company’s Harvey-based mine involved discharges of pollution into tributaries of the Ohio River. Yet tributaries are among the types of waterways for which the Clean Water Rule restored federal protections (in addition to more than half of our nation’s streams.) So repealing the rule could leave companies like Consol with a license to pollute. Even local citizens would lack legal recourse to stop illegal pollution of such tributaries.
Finally, administrator Pruitt’s decision to extol the virtues of a coal mine flies in the face of everything we know about the science of climate change and the economics of energy policy. We need to stop burning dirty coal for the future of the planet, and increasingly, low-cost renewables like wind and solar are leading the way. Pruitt’s Thursday visit to Consol is a throwback to the dirty polluting past.