By Mannix Porterfield
Absent from the official invitation list for that ballyhooed trip to confront the Environmental Protection Agency in a Thursday protest against what are perceived as paralyzing regulations on coal are any legislators from the heart of the southern coalfields.
And one southern lawmaker, while expressing confidence in the ability of those invited to carry coal’s message to the White House, is keenly disappointed.
Moreover, a Republican leader in the House, reminded that no one from his party made the guest list either, termed the visit a public relations gimmick.
Heading the entourage destined Thursday for the nation’s capital via bus tentatively are Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall and House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison. The list also is to include a representative of industry and the United Mine Workers of America, but a complete roster was unavailable Tuesday from state Democratic headquarters in Charleston.
“I have full confidence in those going, but the heart of the coalfields should be represented as well,” said Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, who voiced his desire to the Democratic leadership that he be asked to attend.
“It would be easy to name 15 people from the coalfields in the House and Senate who should be first on the list.”
Not only were southern lawmakers snubbed, but ditto for the Republicans, prompting criticism by House Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, who said it is plain to see that West Virginia’s economy has suffered by the EPA’s assault on the coal industry.
“West Virginia Democrats must join with us to fight for our people and jobs, with actual real legislative action, not public relations stunts like this partisan bus trip,” Cowles said.
Cowles said the GOP has offered several “strong bills” to reverse the Obama administration on coal regulations, but the Democratic leadership has failed to act on them.
“Let’s stand together, let’s work together,” the Republican leader said.
“I am disappointed in the state Democrat leadership. Now is the time to be united as West Virginians, not play politics.”
Only one member of West Virginia’s delegation in Congress, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., plans to sit in on the meeting with EPA officials.
In advance of the meeting, Rahall said he is “delighted” to have members of his political party and home state demonstrating on behalf of the coal industry.
“The policies of this EPA are hurting Democratic coal miners just as much as they are hurting Republican coal miners, and if we want to help coal miners of both parties and their families, we need to recognize that,” he said.
“We need this administration to get the message loud and clear that members of both parties are strongly opposed to those ill-considered, anti-coal policies.”
State Democratic Chairman Larry Puccio announced the trip last week during legislative interims at the Capitol but offered no specifics on what EPA regulations were objectionable.
For several years, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and others have been locked in battle with the EPA over what they routinely have labeled “a war on coal.” Tomblin took the administration to federal court and won reversals in some areas of the legal struggle over regulations.
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