Jan 05, 2010

Coalition of Environmental Organizations Says Indiana Pollution Rules Don’t Meet CWA Standards

Groups ask EPA to intervene

The Hoosier Environmental Council, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter and Environmental Law & Policy Center submitted a petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to correct what they dubbed “serious flaws” in the Indiana water pollution control program, which is administered by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).

The petition finds that Indiana’s programs do not adequately protect Indiana’s waters. For example, it said, Indiana’s water pollution program allows coal mines to dump additional pollutants into streams and lakes without proper controls. Further, they noted, the proposed Bear Run coal mine in Sullivan County, which would be the largest surface mine east of the Mississippi River, can operate under a permit that gives the public no meaningful opportunity to comment.

“Indiana authorities have allowed pollution from coal mining to contaminate too many of Indiana’s lakes and streams,” said Jessica Dexter, staff attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We can’t continue to give coal mines a free pass when it comes to water pollution.”

"This action to petition the EPA to take back the authority for enforcing the Clean Water Act reflects IDEM’s failure to properly protect Indiana waterways,” said Steve Francis, co-chairperson of the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It is our intention that IDEM will take seriously its responsibility to prevent the further degradation of water quality, enforce the laws fully and safeguard the health and welfare of Indiana citizens."

In addition, the program doesn't allow enough public review of new sources of pollution, the groups said, and Indiana has failed to adopt “anti-degradation” rules that are a fundamental part of the Clean Water Act, designed to prevent new or expanded sources of pollution from degrading Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams.