Herald-Leader: ‘More leadership, fewer platitudes’

May 8, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

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.

3 Responses to “Herald-Leader: ‘More leadership, fewer platitudes’”

  1. Forrest Roles says:

    Ken,
    The Herald Leader is wrong- as least as it applies to West Virginia, where the political race Sen. McConnell was talking about is being conducted. An EPA responsive to a Senate with Ms Capito replacing Sen. Rockefeller will result in more good jobs in West Virginia. The veto of the Spruce permit resulted in the loss of hundreds of well paying jobs. I am not going to argue with the determination (although one certainly could); however I am sure that the result occurred because the present political appointees at the EPA are more impressed by the environmental arguments underlying the decision than had been those under previous administrations applying laws which are unchanged.
    Nor is coal’s decline unaffected by those political appointees’ decisions. While the cost of electrical generation by gas has declined, recent increases in natural gas’s price has resulted in coal gaining increased market share. Many believe that pricing comparison will persist, but the EPA’s restrictions have made building a coal fired generator uneconomical and incented earlier retirement of existing coal fired plants and those restrictions makes coal’s revival impossible. See http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2013/05/06/coal-and-gas-fight-over-electric-generation-market/.
    I believe Ms. Capito and Mr. McConnell oppose the EPA’s action because of a real hope that a balanced policy will result in jobs and economic growth and all the good for their constituents that comes from replacing poverty with prosperity. In my view, that’s the sort of leadership we need.
    Forrest

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Forrest,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You talk as if somehow when President Obama took office, the fortunes of the Southern West Virginia coalfields suddenly went from bright and prosperous to dismal and full of poverty.

    Of course, you know better.

    I’d refer you to this Coal Tattoo post, http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2011/07/22/if-coal-is-so-good-then-why-is-w-va-so-poor/ — which asked the age-old question of why, if coal is so good, is West Virginia so poor?

    And you also know well that there are many factors affecting today’s coal markets, both here in Appalachia and elsewhere. And you also know that to blame everything on some mythical Obama “war on coal” is disingenuous and wrong.

    You can certainly argue over coal policies, but to pretend that taking the Obama EPA out of the equation — as your industry’s political campaign failed to be able to do — simply misses the point.

    Ken.

  3. Dustin White says:

    Ken,

    Thanks again for pointing out that West Virginian politicians work more for the coal industry than they do the people they are suppose to represent, the people impacted and poisoned by practices like mountaintop removal.

    It really should be noted that the EPA is not taking these actions on their own. As I know you know, about 100 people from Appalachia, myself included, and across the nation gathered at EPA headquarters and delivered approximately 100 gallons of coal impacted toxic water to them. We demand the EPA unlock us from dirty water, help end mountaintop removal, and to make a conductivity ruling. Nancy Stoner herself came down and accepted our demand letter and the water.

    What the media and our politicians are failing to realize that it is we, the victims of coal, who are going to the EPA…as public servants…do their job to protect us. There is not EPA/Obama war on coal. And the science is in that its harming our health

    My question is when will West Virginians and others throughout Appalachia wake up to realize that no job is more important than the safety and well being of its workers and entire communities? We are being lied to that there aren’t other ways to produce this nations electricity without bowing and putting our lives on the line for extractive energies such as coal and gas and we can have a diverse economy.

    In the mean time, while our politicians do the posturing for the mighty coal industry, the citizens in its wake will continue to pressure the EPA to do its job.

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