Haven’t West Virginia leaders learned a thing?

March 27, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

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.

3 Responses to “Haven’t West Virginia leaders learned a thing?”

  1. Patience says:

    Your rhetorical question of a headline has an obvious one-word answer: No.

    No, they haven’t learned a thing. The passage of the water bill was a one-off, brought about because both the WV citizenry and the national media were paying a whole lot of attention. And even then entrenched interests, both business and political, tried very hard to gut the bill and maintain a business-as-usual approach.

    Just look at the Marcellus waste disposal bill that takes local control away from solid waste authorities and requires them to accept thousands of tons of toxic, poisonous, possibly radioactive waste, even if the SWAs don’t want it and know it’s going to screw up their volume caps and long-term capacity. Same legislative session, same legislators, completely different (and irresponsible) outcome.

    And yes, Steve, these legislators were elected by the very same citizens who were angry, scared, and vocal about the chemical spill. But there hasn’t been an election since the spill, no opportunity for the citizens to show that perhaps they’ve learned something.

  2. Vernon Haltom says:

    In light of Sen. Manchin’s comments about Don Blankenship having “blood on his hands,” you’d think that maybe they had learned something. But no. Well, Sen. Manchin, wouldn’t a “ball bat, a cease-and-desist order, and fines” likely have prevented all that blood? Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, your hands aren’t entirely spotless? And couldn’t you even acknowledge the mountaintop removal-related illnesses someday? http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-senator-coal-boss-don-blankenship-blood-hands/story?id=23162460

  3. Jason says:

    Ever wonder how politicians can be endorsed by both the UMWA and Friends of Coal? Who exactly are you voting for and do you REALLY believe that they have the best interests of citizens (not coal companies) at heart? Lest we forget stumblin’-bumblin’-Tomblin who proclaimed that the chemical spill was not coal-related. How dumb do you believe your constituents to be, Mr. Tombin? Your conduct and commentary is insulting to our intelligence. Lastly, it was nice to see Mr. Rahall’s face, along with all of the other pocket book politicians, in the waning days of the immediate crisis. I suppose they thought it was an opportune time for a photo op, and that we would forget that they were in hiding during the immediate moments of panic and fear. Frankly, the only individuals who deserve any credit during the crisis are the National Guardsmen who actually answered questions without prepared statements. Thank you National Guard.

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