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Feds asked to investigate W.Va. mining oversight

Vicki Smith, Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Sixteen groups say the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has failed to properly regulate surface mining for decades, and it's time the federal government step in.

They want the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement to investigate and temporarily take over the state's program.

In a petition delivered Monday in Charleston, they cite chronic oversight failures at virtually every level, from permitting to fines that are too small.

The petition says DEP has cited at least 6,300 violations of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act since 2006, but many more are ignored.

DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco says the agency hasn't yet reviewed the petition. But she says West Virginia has been a leader in mining regulation and she expects improvements to continue.

OSM didn't immediately comment.