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Environment


Environmental official asked to resign
Retiring head of the division of surface water, George Elmaraghy, says his staff has resisted pressure from coal companies to approve permits
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR


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Jeff St. Clair
 
Ohio streams, like the Kokosing River, are protected waterways and require permits before any industry impacts. The head of the Ohio division of surface water says the coal industry is pressuring his agency to grant permits. He was asked to resign by Gov. John Kasich and EPA chief Scott Nally.
Courtesy of Austin Godber Flickr-cc
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The official in charge of protecting Ohio’s streams and lakes has been asked to step down.

In a resignation letter sent today, the head of the Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water thanked employees for acting appropriately despite pressure from the coal industry to grant permits.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports.

 

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The head of the division of surface water, George Elmarghy, told employees in an email that he was asked to resign by the Gov. John Kasich and Ohio EPA director Scott Nally, effective September 13. Elmaraghy has been with the agency 39 years according to former co-worker Jed Thorp. Thorp now works for the Sierra Club, but spent 5 years in the EPA's public interest center.

He says Elmaraghy’s resignation, "could probably been seen as a victory for the coal industry. It’s my expectation that if this is why George was asked to step down they’re going to replace him with someone who is more amenable to what the coal industry wants to see done.” 

Elmaraghy’s letter states that, “there has been considerable pressure from the coal companies over the last year for the division to accommodate the industry’s needs…”  

Ohio EPA’s Carol Hester will not comment on why Elmaraghy was asked to resign, but does say permits to impact waterways have sufficient review.

Hester says, "the checks and balances that are part of the permitting process are in effect here as in any other situation involving a permit or action of the agency.”

The outgoing Elmaraghy’s letter says he believes the coal industry’s interpretation of the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws has made it difficult for the division to protect Ohio’s streams.

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