Created on Wednesday, 11 September 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Several environmental groups in Ohio want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to perform a full audit of certain permits issued to coal companies following the resignation of a top state regulator.
The Sierra Club and the Ohio Environmental Council asked federal officials in a letter on Tuesday to investigate any water-pollution permits issued in the past six months and any draft permits under review by the state's EPA.
The groups' request comes after a veteran regulator claimed Gov. John Kasich's administration forced him to resign amid pressure from the coal industry.
George Elmaraghy has run the Ohio EPA's Division of Surface Water since June 2005 and worked at the state agency for 39 years. His last day is slated for Friday, though he's hired a lawyer and requested to stay on.
The environmental groups have asked the federal EPA to review whether the state's recent water-pollution permits comply with Ohio and federal laws and rules.
"Given the accusations from Mr. Elmaraghy, we feel that such an investigation is appropriate as well as necessary to provide the people of Ohio with confidence in those charged with protecting our streams, wetlands and lakes," the groups wrote in their letter.
A U.S. EPA spokeswoman tells The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1e27U4D ) that officials have received the letter and will review it.
The Kasich administration has declined to discuss Elmaraghy's personnel situation, but has defended the integrity of the Ohio EPA's permitting program.
Ohio EPA officials told the newspaper their permit program is regularly audited by the U.S. EPA and in compliance with state and federal environmental laws and regulation.