Rahall Introduces Legislation to Rein in EPA; Return Fairness to Permitting Process

May 14, 2013 Issues: Mining & Energy

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is reintroducing legislation that would prevent the EPA’s overreach in the Clean Water Act permitting process which is threatening the future of coal mining jobs and communities throughout Appalachia.  Rahall is joined by U.S. Representative John Mica (R-FL) in introducing the bipartisan bill.

“In recent years, the EPA has taken direct aim at the Appalachia coalfields using and abusing seemingly every regulatory tool in their arsenal to stymie, disrupt and prevent coal mining,” said Rahall.  “But perhaps their most brazen assault on coal miner’s jobs occurred in January, 2011, when the Agency retroactively vetoed a previously issued Clean Water Act 404 permit for the Spruce Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.  Last month’s decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals affirming EPA’s use of this authority now opens the door for the Agency to shut down a coal mine or stop all manner of industrial activity with an unrestricted flick of their veto pen.  I do not believe that it was ever the intent of Congress to vest such sweeping power in the EPA, and if our intent was too vague when the statute was written decades ago, we must make it crystal clear today.” 

The “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2013,” which Rahall is introducing, would place limits on EPA’s ability to veto dredge and fill permits previously issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, as EPA did with the Spruce Mine permit in Logan County. 

It also provides common sense protections for states’ EPA-approved water quality standards and permitting authority under the Clean Water Act.  Under practices by the current EPA, permits for surface mines throughout the Appalachian States have been bottled up for months.  Rahall’s bill would help to speed up the permitting process and rein in EPA, which has imposed new criteria for permits that have stymied the process.

“Similar legislation I offered last year to restore the traditional balance between states and the federal government in the Clean Water Act permitting process was approved by the House on a bipartisan basis,” said Rahall.  “But new urgency has now been injected into this issue.  If the EPA can retroactively veto any Clean Water Act 404 permit ‘whenever’ the Administrator determines it necessary, all such permits for any range of industrial or construction activities throughout the country are rendered completely meaningless. These permits are issued after years of study and consideration and should not be allowed to be taken away when the political winds shift.”

“It is not merely a piece of paper that the EPA is taking away when they veto a permit.  They are taking away the ability of our coal miners to earn an honest living and provide for their families and it is for their sake I am filing this legislation today.”