Coal Tattoo

Attacking EPA: What Lisa Jackson really said

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We’ve written before about how quick West Virginia political leaders are these days to jump in and defend the honor of the coal industry against any slight or perceived slight. Well, it happened again, this time after some comments that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. And, of course, some West Virginia media outlets jumped in to parrot the politicians’ talking points …

First, WDTV-News reported:

Reports claim that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson allegedly attacked the coal industry at an event Thursday, and now our lawmakers are speaking out.

Jackson reportedly said the coal industry is on life support, and she supposedly attacked Representative David McKinley’s coal ash legislation.

McKinley defended his legislation in a statement. He said, “Coal ash, when recycled, actually makes building materials, and other products, more affordable and environmentally-friendly, and yet, the President opposes my bipartisan bill to finally create federal standards regulating coal ash.”

We caught up with Senator Joe Manchin to get his thoughts on the issue. “I’d rather choose working and rebuilding America by using the energy we have here and try to find that balance. So I guess we just philosophically disagree,” he said.

Not to be outdone, MetroNews jumped in with this story:

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., blasted the top environmental officer in the Obama administration Thursday after allegedly saying the coal industry is on “life support.”

According to a McKinley release issued Thursday, federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told students at Howard University, “In their [the coal industry] entire history — 50, 60, 70 years, or even 30 … they never found the time or the reason to clean up their act. They’re literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us.”

Calling Jackson’s comments “false and offensive,” McKinley blamed Jackson for many of the coal industry’s problems.

McKinley apparently continued:

“The coal industry is on ‘life support’ for one reason only: Lisa Jackson and Barack Obama,” McKinley said. “It takes a lot of gall to sit there in her cushy Washington office – lighted by coal, in a building constructed with coal ash – handing down these job-killing regulations, and then turn around and claim the coal industry owes her a favor.

“It is now unmistakably clear to me that Lisa Jackson’s regulations are not intended to simply strike a proper balance between industry and the environment; rather, the hostility conveyed in her attacks betrays a radical ideologue who believes the folks who mine coal, burn coal and recycle its ash are little better than criminals.”

OK … now go back and look again at the way the MetroNews piece quoted Lisa Jackson:

In their [the coal industry] entire history — 50, 60, 70 years, or even 30 … they never found the time or the reason to clean up their act. They’re literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us.

And then, look at what Administrator Jackson actually said, according to the original press account from Greenwire (subscription required):

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today said her agency will fight to oversee the coal industry even as Republicans wage war on regulations, but she stopped short of explicitly supporting student-led efforts to shut down campus coal plants.

Many coal-fired power plants have neglected to update their equipment for decades, she said, and EPA plans to ensure they do so through new toxic emissions standards. Those standards — which were recently delayed a month — would make power plants use up-to-date technology to control mercury, heavy metals and acid gases by about Jan. 1, 2016.

“In their entire history — 50, 60, 70 years, or even 30 … they never found the time or the reason to clean up their act,” Jackson said.

“They’re literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us.”

She didn’t say that the “coal industry is on life support.” She wasn’t talking broadly about the coal industry. She was talking about aging power plants and noting, correctly, that many of them have been in service for decades and still lack the most advanced pollution controls.