Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 5, 2013

A powerful ally — McConnell joins fight against EPA


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is recruiting a powerful ally in her latest bid to reign in an overreaching federal Environmental Protection Agency. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is now working with Capito on a bill that would require the EPA to make a decision on the issuance of new mining permits within a specific time.

An appellate court ruled last week that the EPA was within its authority to retroactively cancel a 404 permit issued years earlier to Arch Coal at its Spruce No. 1 mine, a mountaintop mining operation in Logan County. That decision was blasted by area lawmakers and coal leaders, including U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. And Capito and McConnell, R-Ky., correctly called the ruling an “overreach” by the EPA that will negatively impact coal mining in both West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

“This administration is doing everything it can to destroy the coal industry,” Capito said last week in announcing the new legislation being crafted in conjunction with McConnell. “From President Obama stating that he wants to ‘bankrupt’ it to the EPA holding the permitting process hostage, this administration is standing in the way of economic growth and driving up hardworking West Virginians’ electric bills.”

By sitting on permits indefinitely, McConnell said the EPA has turned the permitting process into “an illegitimate, back-door means to shut down coal mines permanently.

“By playing the game of ‘run out the clock,’ they have put many Kentucky mining operations into limbo and cost Kentucky thousands of jobs and over $123 million in coal severance money,” the Senate Republican leader was quoted as saying last week in the Register-Herald in Beckley. “So, if this administration won’t rein the EPA in, Congress will. Congress must.”

We agree. And we are pleased to hear these strong words of support for coal from McConnell. As the Senate Minority Leader, he is uniquely poised to be a strong voice of reason for coal-producing states such as West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

While the Obama administration has pledged both by words and its actions over the past four years to combat climate change at the expense of fossil fuels such as coal, its actions in support of the science formerly known as global warming are hurting jobs and the economy of coal-producing states like West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

When coal mining production declines, coal mining jobs are lost, coal severance tax funds are lost, and the economy as a whole suffers. And by running roughshod over the coal industry, the EPA is setting an unfair example that is having a chilling affect upon the industry. And if they can do this to coal, what industry will the EPA target next?

President Barack Obama is not going to stand up for coal. History has already proven this unfortunate fact. That’s why it is up to Congress — and lawmakers like McConnell, Capito, Rahall, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to continue this all-important fight.