Rahall Legislation Approved by House as Part of the ‘Stop the War on Coal Act’

Sep 21, 2012 Issues: Mining & Energy

Washington, DC – The House of Representatives today approved legislation to protect coal mining jobs in West Virginia and rein in the EPA’s regulatory overreach with passage of the ‘Stop the War on Coal Act’.  Key elements of the legislation were authored by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall.

“Having crafted essential components of this pro-jobs bill, I am pleased that the House has spoken so strongly today in support of our coal miners and their families,” said Rahall.  “The true soldiers in this war are our coal miners who simply want to do their jobs and earn an honest living to provide for their families. I have been proud to stand in the trenches and fight with our miners and I was proud to stand with them in passing this legislation today.”

H.R. 3409 is comprised of five separate bills designed to protect coal mining jobs including the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act which Rahall authored and the House adopted last year.  Rahall’s bill restores the traditional balance between states and the federal government in the Clean Water Act permitting process and prevents the EPA misusing the Act in order to indefinitely delay or retroactively veto permits for surface mines.

Additional elements of the ‘Stop the War on Coal Act’ include provisions to prevent the Interior Department from issuing new regulations that would eliminate coal mining jobs, and language that would push back against major EPA Clean Air Act regulations -- including the Utility MACT rule and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule -- that threaten to shutdown coal-burning power plants and force others to stop using coal as a fuel source.

“The EPA has run roughshod over my State and others in Central Appalachia to impose its own ideological agenda,” said Rahall.  “It usurped the legal authorities of other Federal agencies. It brazenly misused and abused its regulatory powers to put a stranglehold on coal mine permitting in these States. This robust package that the House has now approved makes it crystal clear to the EPA that their unlawful practices that are taking coal miners’ jobs must end.”

The House approved H.R. 3409 by a vote of 233 to 175.

Below are Congressman Rahall’s floor remarks in support of the legislation. 

 

Remarks by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall

Ranking Member, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Floor Debate on H.R. 3409 – “Stop the War on Coal Act”

September 20, 2012

I rise today in support of the “Stop the War on Coal Act”, or, as I prefer to call it the “Defense of Coal Miners’ Jobs Act”.  It has already been made clear on this Floor that America’s coal industry is under siege.  Coal companies, themselves, have been very upfront about the chief source of their troubles, their lost revenues, mine closures, and layoffs. 

According to coal company officials and their own corporate financial statements, the biggest factor negatively affecting coal of late has been economic – involving declining demand in metallurgical coal, softness in the thermal coal market, a slowdown in the worldwide economy, milder than expected weather and the resulting growth in coal stockpiles, all amplified by the low cost of natural gas. 

But when these factors began to evolve, already darkly looming over coal were the ever-tightening constrictions of the Clean Air Act – that regulatory perpetual motion machine from which rule after rule has rolled out with no regard for the condition of the economy or the effect those regulations would have on the livelihoods of American families.

Meanwhile, long-running legal skirmishes – lawsuit on top of lawsuit – challenging coal mine permitting in my home state had, for decades, unfairly and inhumanely, left coal miners and their families constantly looking over their shoulders, waiting to be told that their mine was shutting down and their paychecks were stopping. 

Then along came the current EPA leadership and what may be the most flagrantly offensive tactic aimed squarely at undoing coal.

That agency singled out what I believe it saw as a politically expendable region of the country and imposed a wholly new permitting regime.  That EPA ran roughshod over my State and others in Central Appalachia to impose its own ideological agenda.  It usurped the legal authorities of other Federal agencies. It brazenly misused and abused its regulatory powers to put a stranglehold on coal mine permitting in these States. 

That is not just my assessment, that is the assessment of the courts, which found that the “EPA has overstepped its statutory authority under the Clean Water Act…and infringed on the authority” afforded by law to the States.  

I know quite possibly better than anyone else on this Floor today how the regulatory arm of government can wreak havoc on the people we represent.  I know because the real front lines of this war on coal are not here in Washington; they run through the hills and hollows of southern West Virginia.  And the true soldiers in this war are our coal miners who simply want to do their jobs and earn an honest living to provide for their families. I have been proud to stand in the trenches and fight with our miners and I am not about to break rank with them.

In defense of our coal miners, along with Chairman Mica I drafted H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, which is a key part of this bill we consider today.  I have, as well, supported the other measures that comprise this legislation when they passed the House as stand-alone bills; with the exception of the base bill to which they are attached as it has not been considered on the floor on its own.  And I stand here now, on this Floor, in support of this bill to, once again, defend of our coal miners, and their families, and my state of West Virginia.  

Coal miners have risen up against their government before.  They have marched on Washington before.  And if this EPA continues to turn a blind eye to the law to impose its anti-coal views, if it continues to unlawfully mess with our miners to cut off their paychecks and cut short their dreams, then I have a message for the EPA from the folks back home: You have not heard the last from us.

American workers want to work.  Jobs are hard to come by these days.  This government ought not be a party to eliminating the ones that still exist. In defense of our coal miners’ jobs, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

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