Bill Raney, the president of West Virginia’s largest coal industry trade association, the West Virginia Coal Association, praised the efforts of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing H.R. 2018, the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.”

The bipartisan legislation introduced jointly by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., top Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., committee chair is “aimed at reining in the Environmental Protection Agency’s overreach in the Clean Water Act permitting process that is threatening the future of coal mining jobs and communities throughout Appalachia,” according to a press release from the committee. The bill passed on a 239-184 vote.

“This bill would bring the federal water quality permitting process back to center and help ensure a more stable, clear and equitable national clean water program,” Rahall was quoted as stating in a press release concerning the passage of H.R. 2018. According to the press release, the EPA has reached into authorities in the Clean Water Act under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and “is also reaching into the states and attempting to control their water protection programs.”

Rahall was quoted as stating that it would be “preferable that agencies work with each other,” but added that, “when they abuse their powers, the congress has the constitutional responsibility to serve as a check on them,” Rahall was quoted in the press release as stating. “This is clearly such a time.” Raney said during a telephone interview from his office in Charleston that the coal association is “hopeful that the U.S. Senate” will take similar action. “I understand that U.S. Senator (Joe) Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working to gain support from other members of the senate.” Raney said. “What we’re really hopeful for is that other people who are not associated with the coal industry will understand the impact of these regulations. Farmers and just about everyone else will feel the impact of these rules.

“Right now, they’re (the EPA) running outside the law and daring anyone to challenge them,” Raney said. “It is the arrogance of the EPA working outside the congressional intention of the Clean Water Act.” Raney said that the EPA’s action of revoking Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine permit illustrates the EPA’s efforts to usurp the permitting process after other state and federal agencies had signed off on the permit. He characterized the EPA’s action as “bullish behavior.”

Bob Wendelgass, president of Clean Water Action was quoted in a press release as characterizing the House’s vote on H.R. 2018 as an attempt to undermine the federal responsibility for protecting clean water.

“Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972 because they knew that dirty water harms people’s health, undermines strong economies and kills jobs,” Wendelgass was quoted as stating in the press release. “This bill is a vote to return to the days of inadequate state and local laws that led to rivers on fire and streams running with untreated sewage.”

The Coal Association urged swift passage of H.R. 2018 in the senate.

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