Coal Tattoo

Haven’t West Virginia leaders learned a thing?

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Coals War

It’s still remarkable to think that the West Virginia Legislature passed a decent piece of legislation in response to the January spill of a coal-cleaning chemical into the Elk River water supply serving 300,000 state residents.

But if you keep watching closely, you might get the idea that some of our state’s top elected officials haven’t really learned anything from that disaster. Despite seeing clearly the results of the anti-regulatory zeal, they are keeping up the drumbeat about the “war on coal.”

Take the action this week by most of our congressional delegation both in voting to block the Obama administration from writing a better stream-buffer zone rule and to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t take up Arch Coal’s fight against the EPA veto of the Spruce Mine permit.

Here’s Rep. David McKinley, talking about how he voted to “stop job-destroying coal regulations” in the House:

The Obama Administration continues to regulate based on ideology and not science. They fail to take into account the impact the excessive regulations have on our economy. Dozens of regulations on the coal and energy industry continue to harm hard-working Americans with the loss of thousands of jobs, higher energy bills, and uncertainty about their future.

This Administration has already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on this overreaching regulation that will cost thousands of jobs and negatively impact energy production. This needs to stop. Today, the House took another step to push back against the EPA and stop the War on Coal.

And here’s Sen. Joe Manchin, talking about the Spruce Mine case as if were really a make-or-break matter for the nation:

I am extremely disappointed that our country’s highest court declined to hear such a monumental case that not only affects West Virginia coal mining jobs, but also impacts business decisions across the board. After the Corps of Engineers approved Spruce Mine’s permit, the company spent almost five years spending millions of dollars to comply with the EPA’s regulations as they moved forward with this project that would have created about 200 good-paying jobs with benefits. 

How can any business confidently invest, when the EPA regularly changes the rules? No one should be allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game. Once a permit has been approved, it should not retroactively be revoked. American investment and business confidence start with consistency in our laws and certainty in the marketplace. We simply cannot afford to stifle energy production and good-paying jobs.

Not to be outdone, here’s what Rep. Nick J. Rahall had to say:

This issue is a threat to coal industry jobs and our economy.  But it also impacts any commercial activity in this country that requires a Clean Water permit.  Nobody is safe under circumstances where after appropriate review a permit is issued that could, some day years later, be revoked by the EPA.

Fundamentally, this debate is about jobs.  Good paying jobs in West Virginia and other areas of the Appalachian Region.  And it is about our economy, whether it be providing needed flat land for agriculture or industrial facilities or saving millions of dollars by providing a ready-made roadbed for a new highway as has been done and is continuing to be proposed in Mingo County.

Oddly enough, the flashing photos on Rep. Rahall’s website switch back and forth between his comments attacking the EPA and another press release in which he professes to care about clean water for West Virginians.

For most households, safe and reliable water from the tap is taken for granted. Turning on the faucet is done without a second thought … However, in too many communities, people, sadly, experience a much different reality.

It’s too bad West Virginia’s leaders haven’t quite figured out how to connect the dots.