The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

May 15, 2013

Rahall tries again to rein in EPA

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 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
  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. 

    Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.

     

    July 29, 2014

  • Tunnel.jpg Tunnel traffic to be restricted to one lane for repairs

    Highway crews are planning to do additional repairs Tuesday night and Wednesday night inside of the East River Mountain. As a result, traffic inside of the tunnel will be limited to one lane in both directions, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth lab bust nets two Raleigh residents

    An anonymous phone call about two children in danger led authorities to a meth lab bust and the arrests of two Raleigh County residents Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress closes in on benefits for veterans

    On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.

    July 29, 2014

  • Voters to decide on youth nonprofit tax status

    Legislation passed late in the session in March will put one issue on the November ballot for voters — whether Boy Scouts’ Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve will be able to rent its property and facilities to other organizations, and not pay property taxes on its 10,600 acres in Fayette County.

    July 29, 2014

  • Judge denies continuance; murder trial to begin Aug. 5

    The trial of a 24-year-old man accused of the first-degree murder of his stepfather will go on as scheduled, after a judge denied a defense motion Monday for a continuance.

    July 29, 2014