Coal Tattoo

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U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the Kentucky Coal Association during a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky.,, on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.  (AP Photo/The Lexington Herald-Leader, Pablo Alcala)

The editorial board at the Lexington Herald-Leader certainly didn’t pull any punches yesterday with a piece headlined: More leadership, fewer platitudes: McConnell antics no help to E. Ky. The editorial said:

Sen. Mitch McConnell dropped into Pikeville and Hazard on behalf of his own re-election last week, but also to help realize his dream of becoming Senate majority leader by electing a Republican to replace retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

… Market forces, not the regulators reviled by McConnell, are what’s killing the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. And the industry is not rebounding any time soon, say experts, because the region’s thin seams are too costly to mine and therefore can’t compete on price.

That a big chunk of people also hold out hope that a coal boom could be ignited in Central Appalachia, if only Congress reined in the Environmental Protection Agency, is not surprising. Human nature craves simplicity over wrestling with complex, scary questions about the future. So the 39 percent who said “no” can be forgiven.

What’s becoming unforgiveable is the eagerness of politicians like McConnell and his co-sponsor, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and a slew of Kentucky Democrats to oversimplify and demagogue the challenges facing the coal-mining regions of Central Appalachia.

The backdrop of the editorial, of course, was Sen. McConnell’s visit to promote the Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2013, legislation the senator’s office describes this way:

The Coal Jobs Protection Act would require the EPA to approve or veto 402 permit applications within 270 days of application. If the EPA doesn’t act by that time, the permit would be automatically approved.

The Coal Jobs Protection Act would give the EPA 90 days after they receive a 404 permit application to begin the approval process for that application. It also gives the president a year to conduct an environmental assessment. Failure to act within that time frame for approval of a 404 permit would mean the application is approved, the permit is issued, and the permit can never be subject to judicial review.

As noted, West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito sponsored the House version of the legislation. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is also a co-sponsor.

West Virginia Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall haven’t co-sponsored the Coal Jobs Protection Act.  But as pointed out before on this blog, they have their own legislation to undermine the Clean Water Act and pander to the coal lobby.

Said the Herald-Leader:

A lot of Eastern Kentuckians, perhaps the majority, are coming to grips with the hard economic truths and are ready to start building something new.

They deserve more from their would-be leaders than deceptions and contrivances like the “war on coal.”

What the people of Eastern Kentucky need are leaders who respect their intelligence and are worthy of them. If anyone spots one, please, let us know.