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Standing with our Miners
At a time when this Nation needs every job it can get, it is nonsensical for the EPA to be undermining those jobs that do exist. Our coal miners simply want to earn an honest living to provide for their families. I am proud to serve in the trenches with them as we fight in support of coal to protect their jobs. And as long as the EPA continues to attack our miners, I will keep on fighting by their side.
In September, I helped to shepherd through the U.S. House of Representatives the “Stop the War on Coal Act.” That legislation was a multipronged counterattack aimed squarely at turning back the EPA’s anti-coal agenda.
That bill joins a host of other bills I have cosponsored to prevent EPA from unilaterally placing caps on emissions of carbon dioxide, issuing stringent new greenhouse gas regulations, and ratcheting up limitations on a host of other emissions -- all of which are aimed at tamping down the burning of coal in America.
For the most part, these were regulatory actions that the industry has long known were on the horizon. Most of the actions involve the ever-tightening constrictions of the Clean Air Act – regulations that have been in the making for decades.
But in our State, those Clean Air Act regulations affecting the burning of coal were piled on top of the Environmental Protection Agency’s interference in the Clean Water Act’s permitting regime impeding the mining of coal. In effect, we have been hit with a regulatory double-whammy.
Worse still, the Federal bureaucrats nestled inside the EPA who instituted these new requirements for coal mining under the cloak of the Clean Water Act skirted the law to do so. And that is not just my opinion; that is the conclusion 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.
Last year, in defense of our coal miners, I won House passage of my bill, H.R. 2018, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, a bill that tells EPA to stop illegally running roughshod over West Virginia and allow our State to run its Federally approved Clean Water Act program and issue legally permissible mining permits. That bill gets at the heart of EPA’s misguided effort to curb the mining of coal. Among the key parts of the “Stop the War on Coal Act” recently passed by the House were the provisions of my bill to stop EPA’s interference with coal mining permits here in West Virginia.
Unfortunately these regulatory actions occurred just as the industry also was being confronted by a series of economic factors that began to eat into the coal markets.
According to coal company officials and their own corporate financial statements, the biggest factor negatively affecting coal in the last year has been the stalled economy here and abroad - involving declining demand in metallurgical coal and softness in the thermal coal market combined with a milder than expected weather and the resulting growth in coal stockpiles, all amplified by the low cost and increasing availability of natural gas.
America’s energy sector has long been one of peaks and valleys, fat times when energy profits have soared and energy-sector employment has grown, and the leaner times, when profits have dipped and layoffs ensued. Regulatory actions should account for those peaks and valleys, considering the economic impact on workers and communities as well as health and safety concerns.
I have stood up against the EPA and its ideological drive against coal. I have spoken out fervently against the agency’s abuse of the law. And I have worked in Congress to prevent the agency from circumventing the law and the people. I aim to keep doing so as long as I serve the people of southern West Virginia.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452