Question:How to get accountability for blasting and dust related permit violations?

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by ekpeterman | November 23, 2021 20:35 | #28247


Blasting is a particularly hazardous aspect of surface mining. Permit violations related to blasting, like fly rock and fugitive dust (which often contains silica - a dangerous carcinogen), in addition to property damage (cracked foundations, polluted wells) are starkly obvious to people that observe them. But, these kinds of violations don't tend to garner West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) response or yield consequences for coal companies. Video footage or photos of blasts recorded by citizens are not considered evidence by the WVDEP. Instead, the agency looks to company blast logs and local seismographic data to determine if there are grounds for a citation or fine.

We're hoping for thoughts on other routes we could take to get accountability in these cases - particularly around the issue of airborne dust that crosses mine permit boundaries. These might include potential routes through federal agencies (circumventing the WVDEP all together), organizing + community advocacy strategies, etc. Citizen footage of blast violations is often very visually striking - any thoughts on how we can mobilize this quality towards accountability?



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I feel like we haven't fully mobilized Public Lab's own social media to amplify the "visually striking" footage you reference — do we need to work something up?

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I totally agree that uplifting imagery is a great way for amplification and awareness of this issue.

Could your group link up with other local/regional groups to combine amplification efforts? Other community orgs in adjacent spaces may have larger audiences to push this in front of new eyes.

One further organizing strategy could be to use this opportunity to pen an op-ed or other public facing explanation/advocacy call. I'm happy to help think through ways to pitch this to local and/or regional news outlets that could help expose this more publicly. Never underestimate the power of publicly shaming institutions/gov agencies into action.

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Hi again! I reached out to Fractracker to see if they had any insight, and got some helpful pointers. Please let me know if you'd like any connections to the orgs listed.

"Aerial footage has been incredibly powerful. Furthermore, monitoring ideas using simple particulate samplers come to mind. I'm sure the blasting must aerosolize a suspension of dust particles. Also, decibel meters to monitor noise at property lines.

As for accessing federal regulatory bodies... I would reach out to The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice. They have had some great luck getting the EPA to inspect injection wells and Class II exemption permitting in CA. These seem similar to the cases mentioned - instances where the state regulator was not fulfilling their obligations of primacy. "

Hi @julia_e_masters! Thanks so much for your reply - this is really helpful. Would love to be connected with the orgs mentioned. @junior_walk1337, any thoughts?

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Hi @ekpeterman our contact at FT suggested:

Hollin Kretzman Hkretzmann@biologicaldiversity.org Colin Obrien cobrien@earthjustice.org.

Feel free to let them know that Fractracker/Kyle Ferrar put you in touch, they've worked together on projects.

Hope this helps!!


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