Gov. Manchin expected to sue EPA over efforts by Obama to reduce mountaintop removal damage

October 5, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

We’ve just posted this breaking news item on the Gazette’s Website:

Gov. Joe Manchin has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday morning where he is expected to announce that the state is filing suit against the federal government over the Obama administration’s crackdown on mountaintop removal coal mining.

Read more here.

Coal Tattoo readers will recall that WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman already hired the Charleston law firm Bailey and Glasser to work on ways to challenge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tougher permit reviews and new water pollution guidance. And, the National Mining Association has previously filed suit to try to block EPA’s actions.

Three weeks ago, at a coal industry rally, Gov. Manchin had warned:

Coal mining is the heart and soul of West Virginia. And today we are taking our message and fight to the United States Capitol. I believe the President’s stance on Cap and Trade is wrong, and I also believe that EPA Director, Lisa Jackson, is overreaching the powers within the agency. West Virginia intends to fight back.

24 Responses to “Gov. Manchin expected to sue EPA over efforts by Obama to reduce mountaintop removal damage”

  1. cegr76 says:

    I really don’t know who to vote for anymore.

  2. Taylor says:

    (sigh) Why should anyone be surprised?
    Interesting that the announcement came so late in the day; could it be they’re trying to avoid having mtr opponents show up?

  3. Monty says:

    I wonder if he would be doing this if the race with that Republican fellow wasn’t so tight? Playing politics with voter’s emotions? Nahhhh, not Manchin.

  4. Concerned Miner says:

    Call this grandstanding and/or politics, but why not try this in court. One side says the practice of MTM is illegal and fills violate the CWA, the other says it is a legal practice and the EPA is over stepping it’s bounds. Legal arguments should be heard out in court correct? I’m not saying either side is right or wrong, but I am growing tired of “arm chair” legal experts telling me what the CWA was intended to do, maybe this will clear thing up.

  5. Allen Johnson says:

    West Virginia will continue to languish around #50 in state rankings regarding all sorts of quality of life indices as long as King Coal rules via government officials such as Joe Manchin and regulatory appointees such as DEP head Randy Huffman. 120 years of coal as our state’s chief economic engine and we duke it out with Mississippi for last place in just about everything. And we are betting our future on coal?

    I support Lisa Jackson in this one. And I will tell her, as a West Virginia patriot to stand tall to protect the people’s health and the ecosystem that sustains our present and future generations.

    As for choosing between Raese and Manchin, well, I won’t stoop to vote for the lesser of two (blank). Senate candidate Jesse Johnson has integrity, and is not a lapdog for the extraction industry.

    Just about everyone else in the USA and other countries who is not in the domain of the extraction and energy industry agrees that mountaintop removal is an egregious practice that should end immediately. Wake up, West Virginians!

  6. rhmooney3 says:

    This has been coming for awhile…and timing is everything.

    The EPA is in for a very rough ride.

    Fighting to produce more coal while not being able to protect coal miner lives…when coal markets are demanding less coal seems quite political.

    It would be nice to know how much existing coal production capability is still being under used in West Virginia. Based on past annual production levels that would seem to be over 20 percent. (Of course, the permitting and mine development processes require several years before coal production begins.)

  7. greg2gs says:

    How is it that you file suit against the EPA for enforcing the Clean Water Act? I support Lisa Jackson for finally steering the agency she heads to actually enforce laws which have been on the books all along!
    Manchin has lost my vote.

  8. Concerned Miner says:

    rhmooney3, I agree, but don’t understand your statement about coal markets demanding less coal, are talking about WV coal in general, the world coal consumption is growing year by year, and expected to continue.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    It is outrageous that a state’s Governor would sue the EPA for trying to protect the State’s environment. It just makes you want to throw up your hands and move. You win, King Coal…. the same as it ever was. And West Virginia and West Virginians lose…. as stated above while King Coal wins, West Virginia remains close to the bottom in health and close to the top in obesity, lung disease, cancer and all that. And Manchin wants to sue the EPA for trying to improve our environment??? The cognitive dissonance gives me one heck of a headache.

  10. Dee says:

    I voted for Hechler in the primary. A friend pointed out that a vote for anyone but Manchin in November might tip the scales towards a Republican majority in the senate. It sickens me to think of voting for Manchin. I don’t know what to do…

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Me either.

  12. Andrew says:

    Didn’t Manchin swear an oath to represent the people of West Virginia? ALL the people of West Virginia? So why is he representing out-of-state corporations? In what Bizarro universe is that not an impeachable offense? At best, it’s perjury of the highest order. At worst, it’s treason against West Virginia.

  13. PDXile says:

    Manchin would have a lot less control over what happens regarding environmental regulation, enforcement, the severance tax, etc. in West Virginia as one of 50 Senators than he currently has as governor. If you hadn’t noticed, notwithstanding Byrd’s fairly forceful statements about coal toward the end of his career, neither of WV’s Senators has had the best voting record regarding legislation that relates to energy & the environment. I would predict that Manchin would vote pretty much the same way. Maybe he would be more conservative, I don’t know, but you can be 100% sure that Raese would vote in lockstep with the Republicans, which is to say he would vote against everything that Obama and the Democrats put forward. I fully understand people not wanting to vote for Manchin, but it seems clear that the alternative is worse, and if the race is close a throwaway “protest vote” for Johnson could tip the outcome in Raese’s favor. (Just my two cents.)

  14. Concerned Miner says:

    Andrew,

    Easy on the treason…Ken gets upset when I post comments without any factual data to back them up, so here goes. In recent elections there have been candidates that have said openly”elect me and I will stop MTM” these candidates have lost by wide margins (fact). Manchin has been elected twice by individuals voting not out of state corporations and both times openly supported a surface mining industry in WV (fact). Manchin has not changed his stance on coal, he is acting exactly as he indicated he would in his campaigns (fact).

    I will now expect the next post to be links to polls that indicate that the majority of the people in WV oppose MTM. I will always maintain the only poll that means anything is the elections.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    With all the touting of “clean coal”; isn’t it ironic that the governor wants to sue EPA for requiring mining practices to be clean????

  16. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    OK, folks …

    Let’s go easy on references to “treason” and to “barf bags” … such comments are not in keeping with Coal Tattoo’s rules regarding showing respect and being polite to those you disagree with …

    concerned miner … we’ve been through those public opinion polls before, so I won’t belabor the point … for those who haven’t seen them, though, here’s one link to a previous post, http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/05/31/mountaintop-removal-obama-walks-a-fine-line/

    While you’re right that elections are important, and they decide who gets to set policy, it’s also possible that people who vote for a particular candidate — whether it be Obama or Manchin — vote not just on one issue like mountaintop removal, but on a variety of issues. So, looking at a combination of election returns and public opinion surveys would probably be a better guide than just looking at one.

    Ken.

  17. rhmooney3 says:

    Concerned Miner:

    9/15/10

    Net generation in the United States rose 8 percent from June 2009 to June 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the Federal Reserve reported that industrial production was 8.2 percent higher in June 2010 than it was in June 2009, the sixth consecutive month that industrial production was higher than it had been in the same month the year before.

    Coal-fired generation increased 11.8 percent in the same time period, which was the largest absolute fuel-specific increase and represented more than three-fifths of the overall national rise in generation. Texas, Ohio, Alabama, and Pennsylvania showed the biggest gains, but only eight of the 48 states reporting coal-fired generation showed lower totals in June 2010.

    Natural gas-fired generation was second to coal with a 9.6 percent increase, while nuclear was down a little more than 2 percent, in part because of refueling outages at the Davis-Besse, Crystal River and H.B. Robinson nuclear power plants.

    Year-to-date, total net generation increased 3.4 percent from 2009 levels. Net generation attributable to coal-fired plants rose 6.2 percent, natural gas-fired generation was up 5.2 percent and nuclear generation declined 1.3 percent.

    The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the Need for Economic Diversification
    Rory McIlmoil and Evan Hansen
    January 19, 2010

    (Excerpt)

    Coal production in Central Appalachia is on the decline, and this decline will likely continue in the coming decades Figure ES-1). After strong and increased production through the mid-1990s, regional production last peaked in 1997) at 290 million tons. Even as national production continued to grow, by 2008, Central Appalachian production had fallen 20% to 235 million tons. Recent projections indicate that—despite substantial coal reserves—annual production may decline another 46% by 2020, and 58% by 2035, to 99 million tons.

    Coal production in Central Appalachia is on the decline, and this decline will likely continue in the coming decades Figure ES-1). After strong and increased production through the mid-1990s, regional production last peaked in 1997) at 290 million tons. Even as national production continued to grow, by 2008, Central Appalachian production had fallen 20% to 235 million tons. Recent projections indicate that—despite substantial coal reserves—annualproduction may decline another 46% by 2020, and 58% by 2035, to 99 million tons.

    Coal production in Central Appalachia is on the decline, and this decline will likely continue in the coming decades Figure ES-1). After strong and increased production through the mid-1990s, regional production last peaked in 1997) at 290 million tons. Even as national production continued to grow, by 2008, Central Appalachian production had fallen 20% to 235 million tons. Recent projections indicate that—despite substantial coal reserves—annual production may decline another 46% by 2020, and 58% by 2035, to 99 million tons.

    More:
    http://groups.google.com/group/bob-mooney/web/powering-down?pli=1

  18. Concerned Miner says:

    rhmooney3

    I understand that production in Central App is declining, and have agreed many times here that it is on its natural decline, what I didn’t understand is your statement that coal markets were demanding less of our Central App coal. I can’t agree with that, our demand is very high for both the met and steam products as well as domestic and export, the reason production is declining is the depletion of good reserves.

  19. Thomas Rodd says:

    EPA either “did it right” or they didn’t.

    It’s now up to the courts to figure it out, and that’s been the case for months. This lawsuit, as I see it, is about appearances — about “standing up for jobs” — jobs of a lot of voters and their families.

    What else would you expect from a pro-coal Governor, and why would you expect a West Virginia Governor not to be strongly pro-coal?

    The effective choice in the Senatorial election is between Manchin and Raese. Personally, I plan to vote for Manchin — not because of his stand on coal issues, where I differ with him, but because (1) he has been very good on some unrelated issues that I care a lot about, and he has earned my support in that fashion; and (2) I know enough about John Raese to know that his election would be a disaster, not just for people like me who have hopes to make progress on coal issues, but for everyone else and for West Virginia in general.

    I fully respect people who have other views; these are mine, and I could be wrong.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Ken, I apologize for the barf comment. And, Thomas, it is still a distasteful choice. Of course West Virginia is a coal state and we shouldn’t be surprised that our governor supports coal. But where is it written that supporting coal means letting mine companies employ practices that are desecrating our landscape? Why is asking them to be accountable and follow the law anti coal??? It is kind of like holding Wall Street accountable is anti-business??? So are they both just plain above the law and we should just leave it at that?

  21. rhmooney3 says:

    Concerned Miner,

    If the good reserves have been depleted, why then is there concern about getting permits? (Yes, the met coal market has rebounded, but that is not a major compoenent of the toal production in WV on a tonage basis.)

    From my perspective, the issue really is that the value of Appalachian coal in the ground (unmined) will diminish in the future.

    (By the way: Annual coal production in VA was about 15 million tons in 2009, a drop from 20 million tons in 2008 and from 40 million tons year year not that long ago.)

  22. Concerned Miner says:

    rhmooney3, I used the word depletion, not depleted. We are not finished, but certainly on the down slope of the curve.

  23. rhmooney3 says:

    Concerned Miner,

    If there was a demand for more coal production and if the coal price was again what it had risen to in 2008, there would be more than a lot more coal being mined in West Virginia.

    It’s the lack of dance partners than is keeping coal mines from performing as they had and can continue to do.

    Many industries have to deal with regulatory permitting. Most would like to have the process that coal is now gruffing about. (Of course, the gulf oil well permitting was even easier, but that wasn’t working either.)

    The good old days are gone. Period.

  24. Monty says:

    This will all shake out after Nov. 2. If the Republicans win a majority in the House and Senate, then, as rhmooney3 and I have suggested, the EPA will be fairly swiftly “put back in its Bush box” and the coal companies can go back to blowing up the WV mountains with impunity.

    … except … that decision on Oct. 8 by Judge Chambers is huge, and not something that can be bulldozed aside quite as easily as our DEP and the EPA.

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