Agency History

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Organizational History and Overview

With the enactment of Senate Bill 217 during a special session of the West Virginia Legislature, the Division of Environmental Protection was created in October 1991. The legislation abolished the former Division of Energy and created two separate agencies: DEP and the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training. Both agencies operated as organizational units of the Department of Commerce, Labor and Environmental Resources. Former DOE employees were transferred into the new agencies.

The order also transferred Water Resources and Waste Management from the Division of Natural Resources to the DEP, and did the same with the formerly independent Air Pollution Control staff.

On July 1, 1992, the state’s environmental protection and regulatory programs were gathered under one agency – the DEP.

On July 1, 1994, the Division of Commerce, Labor and Environmental Resources was abolished, and three bureaus replaced it: the Bureau of Employment Programs, Bureau of Environment and the Bureau of Commerce. The DEP was placed under the authority of the Bureau of Environment. The Office of Environmental Advocate was created by the West Virginia Legislature to serve as a liaison for citizen concerns in the administration of programs at DEP.

In July 1995, the Division of Environmental Protection established its own Office of Legal Services. Employees within the Environmental and Energy Division in the Attorney General’s Office were transferred to the DEP’s newly formed office.

In the 1996 legislative session, the Office of Environmental Remediation was formed under the Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Act. It was created to clean up and put to use contaminated industrial sites in the state.

During the 1999 legislative session, the Office of Explosives and Blasting was established to promote the protection of citizens and their property by enforcing the blasting laws pursuant to surface mining.

While still adapting to meet its consolidated responsibilities, the DEP was organized into 12 major organizational units. They were:

•  Executive Offices: comprised of the agency director and immediate support staff, general counsel, public information, environmental advocate and the ombudsman.
• Office of Administration: comprised of the agency’s personnel office, payroll and training, fiscal, accounts payable, purchasing, property management, administrative services, communications and information technology.
• Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation: oversaw the reclamation of lands disturbed by mining activity prior to enactment of the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act of 1977 and for the Special Reclamation Program.
• Office of Legal Services: represented the DEP in any administrative proceeding or in any proceeding in any state or federal court.
• Office of Mining and Reclamation: regulated surface mining activity within the state – including permitting, inspection and enforcement activity.
• Office of Oil and Gas: regulated the oil and gas industry – including permitting and enforcement, and closing or reclaiming abandoned gas wells.
• Office of Air Quality: monitored air quality, issued permits for industrial facilities and regulated emission standards and the provisions of the Clean Air Act.
• Office of Water Resources: monitored water quality, issued permits for industrial and municipal facilities, provided construction assistance for water plants and wastewater treatment facilities and enforced groundwater protection rules.
• Office of Waste Management: regulated water disposal, hazardous waste management, underground storage tanks, and compliance monitoring.
• Environmental Enforcement: monitored facility inspection, complaint investigations and enforced water resources and waste management laws, rules and regulations.
• Office of Explosives and Blasting: regulated blasting related to surface mining activity.
• Office of Environmental Remediation: created to clean up and put to use contaminated industrial sites.

In the 2001 legislative session, the DEP’s structure was further changed. It was elevated to a cabinet-level agency, which led to the director being elevated to cabinet secretary. Thus, the Division of Environmental Protection became the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Office of Waste Management and Office of Environmental Remediation were combined into the Division of Waste Management.

The Office of Water Resources became the Division of Water Resources. The Office of Mining and Reclamation was combined with the Office of Explosives and Blasting to become the Division of Mining and Reclamation and the Office of Air Quality became the Division of Air Quality.

The Innovative Policy Office was created and the agency added an environmental toxicologist, a mining advisor and a director of special projects, all of whom reported to the cabinet secretary.

The chief of administration was elevated to an assistant secretary position and had the offices of Administration, Oil and Gas, Abandoned Mine Lands, and Information Technology, as well as the Aviation Section reporting to the position.

The agency’s general counsel was elevated to the deputy secretary position and the Office of Legal Services reported to the position. Also, several of the other major units of DEP were further divided into sub-units.

Two years later, in 2003, the department experienced further reorganization. The divisions of Waste Management and Water Resources were combined into what is now the Division of Water and Waste Management. In addition, the Environmental Remediation, Environmental Restoration and the Landfill Closure Assistance programs within the Division of Waste Management were combined with the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and the Special Reclamation Program to form a new division called the Division of Land Restoration.

The department centralized the administrative functions of the agency by moving support personnel from the various divisions into the Office of Administration.

In 2005, the agency’s assistant cabinet secretary was given the additional duty of serving as director of the Division of Mining and Reclamation and named deputy cabinet secretary.

A chief was appointed to oversee the operations of the Office of Administration, and reported to the deputy cabinet secretary.

The Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program was created within the Executive Office, and a Homeland Security and Emergency Response Unit was created from sections of the Division of Water and Waste Management and placed within the Executive Office as well.

Further reorganization of the Division of Water and Waste Management placed the Dam Safety and Waste Compliance units under the control of the Office of Environmental Enforcement, which was brought under the division’s control. The reorganization also regrouped the permitting functions, Groundwater Program, and Waste Permitting sections under the assistant director of the Permitting Program. A program support unit was also created under the division director, and a Water Quality Standards Section was created at the assistant division director’s level.

A year later, the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) was removed from the Division of Natural Resources and was incorporated into the DEP. The program had staff support from the Public Information Office, Office of Administration and the Division of Land Restoration, all of whom helped to promote the Adopt-A-Highway, Litter Control, Make It Shine and Recycling programs. In addition, the Aviation Section was removed from the agency.

In 2008, the Division of Water Resources entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to administer the In Lieu Mitigation Program in West Virginia. As a result, the DEP hired one additional staff member to oversee the program.

In fiscal year 2009, the Office of Abandoned Mine Lands was moved from under the Division of Land Restoration and its chief assigned to report directly to the cabinet secretary. In addition, the Information Technology Office underwent significant change when a state-wide consolidation of information technology placed the staff under the Governor’s Office of Technology. The change dramatically reduced the size of the office.

In December of 2011, the Horizontal Well Act became effective. In response to expanded horizontal well drilling, the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas expanded dramatically. This expansion had significant impacts on the Division of Air Quality and the Division of Water and Waste Management.

In 2014, the Legislature enacted aboveground storage tank regulation in response to a Jan. 9, 2014, incident that left citizens in parts of nine counties temporarily without drinking water. That legislation resulted in a new program within the Division of Water and Waste Management to regulate aboveground storage tanks in West Virginia.

Also in 2014, in recognition of the integrated responsibilities between the Office of Administration and the Information Technology Office as service components of the department, the Office of Technology was moved under the chief of the Office of Administration and the new office was named the Business and Technology Office.

DEP employees require levels of skill ranging from the beginner to the seasoned worker, but primarily in scientific and technical fields. The DEP is a statewide operation, headquartered in Charleston. Operations are accomplished on a district or regional level, based upon the program, thus requiring a workforce throughout West Virginia. Many assignments require work in inclement weather and over rough terrain. Certain positions are subject to exposure to hazardous and/or toxic materials as well.

(Last updated: October 2014)

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