Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 30, 2012

Time for change — Jackson’s EPA departure long overdue

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Forgive us if we don’t shed any tears over the looming departure of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. As the Obama administration’s chief environmental watchdog, Jackson led a one-woman war against the region’s coal industry during the past four years, and did so while showing little respect or compassion for thousands of coal miners and their families across our region — many of whom lost their jobs as a result of the EPA’s actions.

Jackson’s motives were clearly political, and crossed the line of what an EPA administrator should do. Her fingerprints were all over everything from cap and trade to the controversial new controls on coal-fired plants. And while she was busy leading the administration’s war on coal, real environmental concerns, such as streams in our region where raw sewage is still being openly discharged, were ignored.

Jackson announced last week that she is stepping down after a tumultuous four-year tenure with the EPA. She did not give a reason for her decision to leave. But her departure represents a unique opportunity for President Barack Obama.

Obama can now choose one of two paths — he can appoint another attack dog to continue what Jackson started, or he can appoint a new EPA administrator that is willing to work with the region’s coal industry to address environmental concerns while also showing respect to miners and their families.

“Our hope for the coal industry is that the successor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will have more respect for the West Virginia coal miners,” West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney told the Daily Telegraph last week. “For the past four years, our coal miners have had no respectful recognition for all they have done to provide Americans with the quality of life we now enjoy. It’s a shame the way the coal industry has been treated. The standard of living in this country is directly related to the work of coal miners.”

We agree. And this disrespect shown by Jackson and the Obama administration is clearly hurting his own political party. Look at what has happened in still heavily Democratic West Virginia over the past eight years. Just last November, Republicans were successful in nearly erasing the 15-seat majority Democrats have held in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Many will correctly point to Obama’s unpopular war on coal as the reason for the GOP’s recent gains in the Mountain State. And once seemingly unbeatable Democrats in neighboring Virginia — like Rick Boucher — have also been defeated thanks to the Obama administration’s stance on coal.

Obama can begin taking steps today to repair the damage he has done to his own political party in the coalfields of West Virginia and Virginia by appointing a new EPA administrator who will work hand-in-hand with the region’s coal industry in addressing reasonable environmental concerns. Obama should also take renewed steps to embrace clean-coal technology — which really should be the future of coal but has instead been largely ignored by this administration.

Given Obama’s words and actions over the past four years, this is probably wishful thinking. But a new year is fast approaching, so we can always hope for positive change from the administration.