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Environmentalists Ask For Answers In EPA Resignation
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This week, a top environmental watchdog for the state claimed pressure from the coal industry played a role in his resignation.
Now some environmental groups are weighing in.
When George Elmaraghy, chief of the EPAâ€™s Division of Surface Water, sent a mass email to his staff Monday morning, he said he was asked to resign by the governorâ€™s office and the director of the agency.
He says the move was made after considerable pressure from the coal industry.
The Division of Surface Water executes permits ensuring that the state is following the federal Clean Water Act.
While the agency will not talk about Elmaraghyâ€™s resignation, which takes effect next month, it does stand by its permitting process saying that their permits are evaluated by several third-parties, including the federal EPA.
A spokesperson for the agency says the permits are submitted based on the law, no matter whoâ€™s making the decision.
Zane Daniels is the president of the Ohio Coal Association; he says his association does not impact or play any role in personnel decisions at the EPA.
But some environmental advocates believe the coal industry does have a strong influence on the agency.
Trent Dougherty, staff attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, dealt with Elmaraghy on different issues. He says he always thought the chief was fair in his decisions.
â€œIâ€™ve only known the chief to follow the law and if the EPA is saying that everyone in that position has to follow the law then why is he being forced to leave and I think thatâ€™s a question that can only be answered by the govenrorâ€™s office and the director of EPA,” Dougherty said.
Last week an Ohio House panel held a hearing in Belmont County to talk about energy generation. There to deliver testimony was Bob Murray, president of Murray Energy Corporation, which touts itself as the largest privately-owned coal company in America.
Murray told the committee that President Barack Obama and policies by the U.S. EPA were causing â€œcatastrophic economic destruction.â€
Murray never specifically addressed state EPA policies in his written testimony but Jed Thorp, manager of the Sierra Clubâ€™s Ohio Chapter, says the timing of Murrayâ€™s testimony and Elmaraghyâ€™s resignation might not be a coincidence.
â€œTo me itâ€™s not real surprising that not even a week after that that youâ€™re seeing heads roll at the agency.â€
Murray Corporation Spokesperson Gary Broadbent says the company had nothing to do with the resignation of Elmaraghy.
Both the Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club say Elmaraghyâ€™s departure is a step in the wrong direction as far as protecting Ohioâ€™s streams and wetlands.