Don’t Let Coal Companies Lie About Dirty Water


Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Don’t allow companies to lie about water pollution

Coal companies are lying about pollution from their mining operations in order to get away with violating the Clean Water Act. Currently, these companies are required to report pollution accurately based on the honor system. However, in a recent case against a lab official responsible for falsifying samples for coal companies, the official pled guilty to faking water samples, making it clear that the trust system will not work to hold the biggest polluters accountable.

In October 2014, Appalachian Laboratories Inc. supervisor, John W. Shelton, admitted to systematically faking water quality samples to avoid costs for coal-mining companies. Shelton admitted to diluting samples with clean water, pulling samples from areas with water known to be clean and leaving samples unrefrigerated—a practice against CWA standards.

Shelton was not the only one within the company falsifying samples and, according to Shelton, the importance of pulling good samples was stressed to him from the time he began. “Good samples” being those up to CWA standards, which would not cost the company money or customers.

Self-reporting is a cost-effective and efficient system when the guidelines are properly adhered to, but it leaves a lot of space for dishonesty and truly unsafe and illegal practices. It has been made clear that companies cannot be trusted to self-report accurately, as it often is not in their favor to do so.

Sign this petition and demand an end to the honor system and require that water samples be taken by employees of the EPA to ensure reporting is in keeping with the regulations and standards of the CWA.


Dear Ms. McCarthy,

John W. Shelton was a field technician and later a supervisor for Appalachian Laboratories Inc., whose job it was to collect water samples for coal mining operations to ensure they were complying with the Clean Water Act and its standards for water pollution. During his time with the company, and at the encouragement of other officials within the company, Shelton and other employees regularly faked water quality samples to keep customers and cut costs.

Using the honor system to ensure that companies are not violating the Clean Water Act only works if the companies are honest when self-reporting. The recent case of the Appalachian Laboratories’ systematic deception makes clear the need for further oversight.

I urge you to require water samples be taken by trained EPA employees to ensure the standards of the CWA are being implemented.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons

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