Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 20, 2010

Rahall to EPA: Get your act together

Rep. Nick Rahall issued some advice to the Environmental Protection Agency in the turmoil in West Virginia over delayed coal mining permits: Get your act together.

Industry leaders are growing increasingly frustrated over the stalled permits, and at one point, Gov. Joe Manchin sat down with President Obama in an effort to get some action.

There have been some breakthroughs in recent months, including the Hobet 45 application that held 500 jobs in the balance and a second installation in Mingo County, but the uncertainty over other permits is causing angst.

Surface mining makes up almost 40 percent of the coal production in West Virginia.

If the pending permits aren’t approved, two professors warned at the state Capitol last week, surface mining will become an instant dinosaur and the negative effects will echo across West Virginia.

“I’m not defending EPA,” Rahall declared in a sit-down with The Register-Herald editorial board.

“Does the EPA need to do a better job? You better believe they do. That’s why I’m working with them on a constant basis.”

Rahall said he stays in touch with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House’s environmental trouble-shooter.

“The EPA needs to tell the industry not only what they cannot do, which they’re good at, but what they can do in order to get a permit approved. And the EPA needs to get their act together. I told Lisa Jackson that herself. She knows they don’t have their act together.”

One problem is the inconsistency of the EPA between its Washington and Philadelphia offices, the 3rd District congressman said.

“The problem is within the agency. They need to get their act together. They’re working on it. They’re making progress. But they’re not there yet.”

At the same time, the Beckley Democrat said the industry cannot expect carte blanche in seeking mine approvals.

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