Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 18, 2013

Added urgency — EPA measure merits bipartisan support

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A recent federal court ruling has added a sense of urgency to legislative efforts aimed at reining in the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and protecting coal-based jobs. That’s why the bipartisan “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2013” is of particular importance. The measure was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

Last month’s decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals affirming the EPA’s apparent ability to retroactively veto any Clean Water Act 404 permit opens the door for the agency to shut down any coal mine or stop all manner of industrial activity with an unrestricted flick of their veto pen, according to Rahall.

Permits for surface mines throughout the region have been bottled up for months under current practices by the EPA. The Rahall-Mica measure would correctly speed up the permitting process and rein in the EPA.

 If the EPA can retroactively veto any Clean Water Act 404 permit whenever its administrator determines it necessary, all such permits for any range of industrial or construction activities throughout the country could be rendered meaningless — as correctly argued by Rahall and Mica. And granting such unchecked authority and unprecedented power to a non-elected bureaucratic agency should send a chilling message not only to the coal industry, but any industry that may fall out of political favor and into the cross hairs of the EPA.

That’s not how the EPA is supposed to work. We know that. Congress knows that.  But if the past four years and five months are any indication, we can expect to see more of the same when it comes to the EPA — and its efforts to run roughshod over the coal industry. Rahall correctly notes that the EPA in recent years has taken direct aim at the Appalachian coalfields using and abusing seemingly every regulatory tool in their arsenal to stymie, disrupt and prevent coal mining.

That’s why congressional action to rein in the EPA is absolutely a must. The “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2013” is an important step in the right direction.

And so is the bipartisan EPA Fair Play Act that was recently reintroduced in the U.S. Senate 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 Senate-based measure would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from retroactively vetoing previously approved permits while protecting energy production, economic growth and job creation.

Both measures demand the full support of lawmakers in the House and Senate, and particularly those lawmakers that serve coal-producing states such as West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.