The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

May 14, 2013

Rahall tries again to rein in EPA mine permits

A second effort is afoot by Rep. Nick Rahall to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency in its zeal to regulate coal mine production, a move hailed by an industry leader in West Virginia as “a great piece of legislation.”

Rahall’s introduced the measure Tuesday, close on the heels of an appellate court’s edict that held the EPA could revisit a permit issued earlier for the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County.

“In recent years, the EPA has taken direct aim at the Appalachian coalfields, using and abusing seemingly every regulatory tool in their arsenal to stymie, disrupt and prevent coal mining,” the West Virginia Democrat said.

Rahall called the decision by EPA to yank the Spruce permit “their most brazen assault on coal miners’ jobs.”

Moreover, the ruling in April by the U.S. Court of Appeals upholding the EPA’s action will open the floodgates to not only close mining operations but “all manner of industrial activity with an unrestricted flick of their veto pen,” the 3rd District congressman said.

Rahall’s proposal, known as the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, is meant to put limits on the federal agency’s ability to veto dredge and fill permits that are issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, as the EPA had done with the Spruce installation.

“It’s a great piece of legislation,” Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said in Beckley after addressing the Rotary Club.

“Kudos to Congressman Rahall for not only introducing this year’s version, but he championed the same legislation two years ago which successfully passed the House of Representatives, only to stall in the U.S. Senate.”

Hamilton said the Rahall bill is meant to prevent the EPA from backtracking on permits that have been issued within the law.

Spruce’s mining permit was five years in developing and was in effect for three years until EPA pulled the plug, Hamilton said.

“Here they are today, with a couple of hundred people working, equipment on the ground, ready to go to work,” the coal association official said.

“They had the permit three years and now EPA wants to come in and take it back. That’s really a bad precedent, not only in coal but all other businesses that require EPA approval.”

Hamilton said the Rahall proposal would shore up the rights of states to deal with water purity and other environmental issues.

Rahall’s bill never hit the floor of the Senate last year, and Hamilton said he hopes Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., can form a coalition to get it moving this year.

“New urgency has now been injected into this issue,” Rahall said.

“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.”

Rahall said far more goes into the cancellation of a permit than a piece of paper.

“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,” he added.

Hamilton told Beckley Rotarians that coal reflects a $3.6 billion payroll in West Virginia, some $500 million in severance taxes, $490 million in general taxes and impacts about 63,000 jobs.

All together, he said, the industry wields a $26 billion impact in the state’s economy.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

 

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • forum1 VIDEO: Meet the Candidates

    ABOUT THE FORUM:
    The Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet the Candidates forum Thursday morning at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

    April 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Forum: U.S. Senate and House

    U.S. Senate
    The lone candidate for U.S. Senate to attend the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidate Forum, David Wamsley, described himself as “the most liberal candidate, the most conservative candidate and the most moderate candidate” in the race. Wamsley said he believes each individual issue should be dealt with on its merits and not because of partisan politics.

    April 25, 2014

  • Forum: House of Delegates

    District 28
    Democratic House of Delegates candidates Jeffry Pritt and James Brown focused on issues dealing with the efficiency of the Legislature, crime, infrastructure and taxes.

    April 25, 2014

  • Forum: Board of Education

    Perennial board of education issues of technology, consolidation and truancy were among the questions dealt with Thursday by candidates for a seat on the Raleigh County Board of Education.

    April 25, 2014

  • After being line-item vetoed from state budget, Meadow Bridge to get $50,000 from WVDOE

    After the prospect was initially vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in March, Fayette County School Superintendent Keith Butcher announced this week that the county will indeed receive funds for Meadow Bridge High School after all.

    April 25, 2014

  • ARH, BARH registered nurses to stage one-day strike

    A national labor union announced Thursday that registered nurses at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital will join colleagues at Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard, Ky., in staging a one-day strike May 1.

    April 25, 2014

  • expressway Coalfields Expressway developments detailed by WVDOT

    A convoy of press, public and politics raised clouds of dust along an unfinished corridor of the long-awaited Coalfields Expressway Thursday during an open tour of the construction zone.

    April 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mercer County firefighters batting three different brush fires

    Firefighters are currently on the scene of at least three brush fires now burning in rural areas of Mercer County.

    April 24, 2014

  • BeverlyMagnumMUG.jpg Woman who attempted to rob bank at gunpoint captured in Tennessee

    A woman who attempted to rob a Bluefield bank at gunpoint has been captured in Tennessee , police said Thursday.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former federal prison worker pleads guilty to sex offense

    A former federal prison employee pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Beckley to engaging in abusive sexual contact with a female inmate.

    April 24, 2014