Coal Tattoo

UMWA to EPA: Let’s talk

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United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts has issued the union’s first statement on the Obama administration’s move to begin more thorough review of mountaintop removal mining permits.

Among other things, Roberts criticizes initial media coverage of the EPA announcement yesterday, praises EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for issuing a statement to clarify things, but also asks for a meeting with Jackson “so that we can get direct clarification from her as to what EPA’s stance is regarding the pending permits.”

Here’s the full statement from Roberts:

“Yesterday’s initial reporting regarding the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) actions with respect to the approval of mountaintop removal permits apparently was not the full story. We were pleased to see the EPA’s clarification issued later yesterday, which said that the agency ‘is not halting, holding or placing a moratorium on any mining permit applications.’

    “What EPA did was to comment on two pending surface mining permit applications. EPA indicated that it would be reviewing other applications, but also said that it ‘fully anticipates that the bulk of pending permit applications will not raise environmental concerns.’ That’s a very important statement, one that everyone involved should  pay attention to.

    “We have requested a meeting with Director Jackson of the EPA so that we can get direct clarification from her as to what EPA’s stance is regarding the pending permits. We have many members whose jobs are related to surface mining, and we believe it is important for the lines of communication to be completely open between us and the administration so that the confusion and anxiety created by yesterday’s initial reporting do not happen again.

    “We also look forward to continuing our discussions with the Obama administration regarding the critical need to fund and develop innovative technologies to allow the United States to continue using its most abundant energy resource – coal. The funding included in the stimulus package for developing carbon capture and storage technology, as well as the moves toward reversing the previous administration’s cancellation of the FutureGen project, are good first steps.

    “America’s coal miners and the coal they mine have been and will continue to be the foundation upon which our nation’s manufacturing and energy industries are built. The work they do provides not just the power we all need to light and heat our homes and keep our computers running, but also to provide a decent living for their families and economic growth for their communities.

    “We will continue to do all we can to support their jobs, their families and their communities.”

The last time I looked closely at the numbers — about a year ago, in April 2008 –  UMWA members accounted for just 760 of West Virginia’s 5,400 strip-mining jobs. That’s about 14 percent.