Coal Tattoo

Rep. Rahall joins in GOP attacks on EPA

There I was this morning, watching the Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee go after EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson for trying to enforce the Clean Air Act

Now, West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall is a Democrat, and he’s not even on the Energy and Commerce Committee. But you wouldn’t know that from this press release issued by his office:

U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), at a meeting in his office late Tuesday, urged the head of the White House regulatory office to closely examine the actions of the EPA and other Federal agencies that could result in job losses in southern West Virginia.

“In trying to advance its agenda on surface mining, the EPA is pushing its regulatory authority to extremes, even circumventing procedures that allow for public comment and participation,” said Rahall after the meeting with Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the White House. “I urged Mr. Sunstein to ensure that OIRA fully reviews the actions of EPA and other agencies with an eye toward threatened jobs in southern West Virginia.”

OIRA is responsible for overseeing most regulatory actions, including at the EPA. It is charged with ensuring that agency regulatory actions are consistent with applicable law and the efficient functioning of the economy, promoting productivity, employment, and competitiveness. The office reviews draft rules from agencies at both the proposed and final rulemaking stages, and also informally reviews certain rules before they are formally submitted. It can clear rules with or without change, return them to the agencies for reconsideration, or encourage the agencies to withdraw the rules. As a result of OIRA reviews, agencies frequently are required to alter their rules.

“We are already feeling the ill effects of regulatory agency over-reach in southern West Virginia. Thanks to EPA’s intervention in permitting, miners are on edge about the future of their jobs and companies are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to plan and invest for the future,” Rahall said. “This is the result of so-called ‘guidance’ — not statute, not even regulation — initially issued by EPA in 2010; now we see a rule coming from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) that its own internal reviews reportedly admit will eliminate thousands of coal jobs, followed closely by a raft of EPA regulations expected to drastically affect utilities and manufacturers that depend on coal power.”

Rahall said that all of these actions, individually and collectively, need closer scrutiny to determine their effect on coal jobs throughout Central Appalachia and beyond, as well as their effects on the small businesses and families that rely on affordable energy provided by coal. He noted that so many new requirements on the industry, coming in such rapid succession, may be beyond the ability of utilities and manufacturers to adapt, impeding the nation’s economic recovery.

OIRA has recently been at the center of increased Washington focus on the effect of regulations on domestic businesses. It has been the subject of hearings in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, the House is scheduled to consider a resolution instructing House Committees to review existing, pending, and proposed regulations for their effect on jobs and economic growth.

“I believe it was good meeting. Administrator Sunstein’s insight and perspective were encouraging. He emphasized that the President recently issued an executive order and memorandum to agencies placing emphasis on the need to create jobs and underscoring the mission of OIRA to consider the impact of regulations on jobs and small businesses,” said Rahall.

Rahall noted that the Administrator also encouraged southern West Virginians to take advantage of every opportunity to comment on proposed and existing regulations, saying that such input can influence regulatory agencies.

I’ve mentioned before that most of the mountaintop removal that’s occurring happens in Rep. Rahall’s district … and the scientific consensus is that this mining is having “pervasive and irreversible” impacts on his district. Yet Rep. Rahall has not publicly announced any proposals he would push or support for reducing those impacts.

As best I can tell, Rep. Rahall has not even — as Sen. Jay Rockefeller recently did — admitted that forces beyond new EPA regulations on strip mining or greenhouse emissions are impacting the Central Appalachian region’s coal production, or really offered any plans for dealing with that inevitable decline.