Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 28, 2013

Congressional action

Legislation best way to reign in the EPA

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Bipartisan legislation reintroduced last week in the U.S. Senate would correctly prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from retroactively vetoing previously approved permits while protecting energy production, economic growth and job creation.

The EPA Fair Play Act was reintroduced Friday by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La..

The measure was resurrected two days after a controversial ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found that the federal  Environmental Protection Agency had the legal authority to retroactively veto Clean Water Act permits previously issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The court ruled that the EPA had the legal authority to retroactively veto a water pollution permit for one of West Virginia’s largest mountaintop removal coal mines years after it was issued. The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling in a case that has implications across coal country. The appellate court also directed Judge Amy Berman Jackson to address the coal industry’s argument that the EPA’s action was an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, an issue she has not previously ruled on, the Associated Press reported.

The holder of the permit in question, St. Louis-based Arch Coal, said it was disappointed in the ruling, but referred to the court’s findings as a “procedural aspect” of the case.

But the ruling sends another chilling message to the region’s embattled coal industry, which continues to fight an uphill battle against an overreaching EPA, and an administration in Washington that argues fossil fuels such as coal are contributing to climate change.

That’s why congressional action to reign in the EPA, and protect coal and other fossil fuels, is necessary.

“For too long now, the EPA has been waging a destructive war against Appalachia coal mining and it is costing countless American jobs and investment,” Manchin said. “If we are ever going to recover from our fragile economy, American businesses must have certainty in the marketplace. It is simply common sense to allow companies that already have been granted permits to continue the work they have started. We simply cannot afford to stifle energy production and good-paying jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, warned the ruling would open the floodgates to disrupting coal mining in West Virginia and elsewhere by granting the EPA “unprecedented and seemingly limitless authority” over Clean Water Act 404 permits. 

 Rahall is pledging to reintroduce the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would prevent the EPA from using the guise of clean water as a means to disrupt coal mining.

We welcome the reintroduction of the EPA Fair Play Act, and urge Rahall to proceed with the reintroduction of the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. And we expect all lawmakers from coal-producing states to support these common-sense measures in both the House and Senate.