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New head of WVDEP fires environmental advocate

The new head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection fired the head of the agency's Office of Environmental Advocate on Jan. 27, the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail reported.

Wendy Radcliff had been the environmental advocate since 2014 and from 1994 to 1998, serving under five different WVDEP leaders from both parties.

The position, aimed at helping everyday citizens navigate the WVDEP's regulatory system, has been required by state law since 1994.

Environmental activists who spoke to the Gazette-Mail expressed shock and dismay at the move by new WVDEP Secretary Austin Caperton, a longtime coal industry consultant.

"For many who have well water woes or who are worried about another coal slurry spill, have questions about an oil and gas or coal permit or have any number of questions about how to interact with [the] DEP, Wendy's the first point of contact," Vivian Stockman, vice director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, told the newspaper. "She's friendly, helpful and competent. She does the agency proud, so her dismissal is confounding."

Caperton has not made any public comment on the dismissal. The agency's communications director, Kelley Gillenwater, was also fired, according to the Gazette-Mail.