Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 10, 2013

EPA Mact Act: A common sense approach

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — It is no secret that the Obama administration has been and continues to wage a war on coal through its federal Environmental Protection Agency. But U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., also believes the EPA is waging a war on common sense. And he makes a valid argument.

For example, Griffith points to a guidance issued by the EPA in October requiring that all fire hydrants installed after Jan. 4 of this year must now be in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Really? Are there people out there who drink water out of a fire hydrant? We certainly hope not.

However, as a result of this unfunded federal mandate, communities across the country may have to spend millions of dollars replacing their fire hydrant inventories in order to comply with this puzzling new mandate.

But of bigger concern to families in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia are the new EPA standards that would require coal-fired power plants to deploy technologies that are not currently commercially viable. In essence, the new rules would prevent the construction of any new coal-fired power plants while forcing the closure of others like the Appalachian Power facility in Giles County.

That’s one of the reasons why Griffith has introduced the Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats (MACT) Act, or HR 3641. According to Griffith, more than nine out of every 10 EPA employees were considered “non-essential” and were furloughed during the recent partial government shutdown. The EPA MACT Act would require EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to reduce the EPA’s workforce by 15 percent within three years. The proposed measure also allows the EPA administrator to have an additional fourth year if she deems it necessary to achieve the goal of the proposed legislation.

“Many in my area and in coal communities across the nation may wish for the complete elimination of the EPA, but the EPA MACT Act is a more balanced approach,” Griffith said last week in announcing the legislation. “It recognizes that the EPA has put forward some reasonable regulations in the past, and that the agency ought to have the resources in order to be able to continue enforcing those reasonable regulations.”

However, Griffith also correctly argues that the EPA is waging a war not only on coal, fire hydrants and common sense, but also on American manufacturers, coal miners and jobs in general.

“There are real businesses that have closed and real people who have lost their jobs as a result of unreasonable EPA actions,” Griffith said. “The American people need some relief without delay. This bill would give a small measure of hope to those who face the prospects of the business they work for being shuttered and the loss of their jobs because of an overzealous EPA producing massive new unreasonable regulations.”

We agree. Although it is doubtful that this logical legislation will ever become law — as it faces certain defeat in the Democratic-controlled Senate if it were to clear the Republican-controlled House — we nevertheless appreciate the continued efforts of Griffith when it comes to fighting the overreach of the EPA.

We believe all lawmakers representing the coal-producing counties of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia should take a similar approach.