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Ohio EPA Water Chief Resigns

The official in charge of protecting Ohio’s streams and lakes has been asked to step down. In a resignation letter sent Monday 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.

Long- time head of the division of surface water, George Elmarghy , in an email told employees 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 38 years according to former co-worker Jed Thorp.  Thorp now works for the Sierra Club, but spent 5 years in the surface water division under Elmaragy.

“I think in the short term George’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,” says Thorp.

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 Hestor will not comment on why Elmaraghy was asked to resign, but does say permits to impact waterways have sufficient review.

“We simply want people to understand that the checks and balances that are part of the permitting process are in effect here as in any other situation involving a permitter 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.