Coal Tattoo

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With Friday’s target date approaching for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue its final water quality guidance for Appalachian surface coal mines, our old friend Rep. Nick J. Rahall is at it again …

The West Virginia Democrat issued this press release, to let us know he’s again asking the White House to intervene in the matter:

U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) Tuesday appealed to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to examine EPA’s Clean Water Act Guidance Memo affecting coal mine permitting in Appalachia before the April 1 deadline when the guidance is slated to be finalized.

“There are many regulatory actions underway – at the EPA, OSM, and elsewhere – that would hurt coal miners and local communities in southern West Virginia,” said Rahall. “All of those efforts, under executive orders in place long before President Obama took office, are subject to review by OIRA before they take effect. I am hopeful that OIRA will bring some additional oversight and help to check the EPA’s more abusive actions.”

Rahall met earlier this year with Cass Sunstein, Administrator of OIRA, regarding EPA regulations. In a letter to Sunstein on Tuesday, Rahall renewed his request for OIRA to intercede before the EPA finalizes its guidance on water permits for surface mining, which is scheduled to happen Friday. The EPA issued a Guidance Memo on April 1, 2010, establishing new criteria for the issuance of Clean Water Act permits for surface mining in Appalachia. Contrary to statutory and executive requirements, those guidance documents were not reviewed by OIRA or subject to public comment and participation before they took effect.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is responsible for overseeing regulatory actions at Federal agencies, 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. OIRA can clear regulatory actions with or without change, return them to the agencies for reconsideration, or encourage the agencies to withdraw them.

“The EPA is stretching its statutory authority to the limits, and doing so in a way that circumvents the rights of the affected communities to comment on how these proposed actions will affect jobs and their economic health and well being. I am asking the White House regulatory office to review the EPA actions before they are finalized, and to reverse guidance policies that circumvented the proper regulatory review and procedures,” said Rahall.