Opinion

Rule change would hide air pollution info

An editorial from the Parkerburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — At the beginning of this week, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality quietly ended its public comment period on a proposed rule that would virtually hide government activity from members of the general public. Proposed rule 45CSR12 – Permits for Construction, Modification, Relocation, and Operation of Stationary Sources of Air Pollutants, Notification Requirements, Administrative Updates, Temporary Permits, Permission to Commence Construction, and Procedures for Evaluation – would remove public notification by Class I and Class II legal advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where the source would be located, and instead place the notification on a WVDEP/DAQ web site.

In other words, rather than placing notices of permitting applications of stationary sources of air pollution in the local newspaper, where citizens are accustomed to looking for such notices, and which is available in one form or another to virtually everybody, one state agency would like to bury that information on a government web site, where a searcher would have to know exactly what he or she was looking for to find it.

Remember, West Virginia is the 45th most Internet-connected state in the country. Nearly 20 percent of residents would not have access to the information hidden in those notices, even if they did know to go looking for them.

There is a reason public notices are legally required for such government actions. Setting aside the subject matter of this particular proposal – which begs the question: Why is a state government agency so eager to make it harder for the public to know when there has been a permit application for a stationary source of air pollution? – lawmakers should not allow ANY government agency to effectively hide its activities from most of the state’s residents.

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