How Do You Get Regulators to Listen?

What do you think is the best way to get what you want?

Last week, a small group of people representing Rainforest Action Network sat in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters for about four hours, protesting agency approval of a Pine Creek Surface Mine permit in West Virginia. Over the last year, a man who lives in Tennessee has been trying to protect his wife's interests through attorneys and state and federal agencies following a divorce in Arkansas that entangled her in an underground storage tank (UST) removal liability case.

The whole sit-in concept seemed staged to me (and a little odd from a group whose name includes "Action"). The group held up banners outside the building, sat on the floor playing a John Denver tune mixed with mining blasts and took pictures of what they were doing so they could post them on their Website along with a press release on the "event." Did they get what they wanted? My colleague says yes because I am writing about this (as have other media types out there). I think RAN wanted more, like the end of all mountaintop mining forever. That is one big goal.

The Arkansas case is so complicated I know I can't do it justice but the idea is that state agency was not doing its job related to a UST on property jointly owned by Fredda Webb-Rowan and her former husband, and a court ruling ultimately redefined owner-operator, making the woman responsible for half the cost of the removal. I asked Mrs. Webb-Rowan's current husband Frank why he didn't hire a lawyer. His experience with that group of individuals has not been good, to put it mildly. So he is now trying to convince EPA that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is not doing its job, but he has not been impressed by the attention the matter has received from the federal agency, either. He said two months passed before he got a response from EPA.

Sit-in or proper paper channels? Neither seems too satisfying in these cases.

This is not the first nor will it be the last time that I hear complaints about how state and federal environmental agencies are doing their jobs. Have you had a similar experience? If so, did you find a way to get what you wanted? We'd love to hear about it here.

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Jul 13, 2010