The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 14, 2010



Will the EPA always have an adversarial relationship with West Virginia or is there room for compromise, and is climate change a real issue and what role does West Virginia play in the future of the environment?

“There’s always been an adversarial relationship with the EPA. It’s not like it just happened this year or last year or with the advent of a new administration. Some people would call it a war on coal, and as I’ve said, the war on coal is nothing new. Coal has always been under attack. About 700 years ago when it was first invented the King of England tried to outlaw the burning of coal. This is nothing new. I’ve often found myself on the defense for coal in Washington, D.C., and in the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, it’s often like terrorist threats — when you’re successful in defeating the threat and no attack occurs, you never know the threat was there to begin with.

“I’ve been on the defensive battle for coal 34 years. Back in 1977, our first year, I helped write the Federal Surface Mining Reclamation Act that now comes under the jurisdiction of the committee I chair, the Committee on Natural Resources. I defended, it was called strip mining in those days, now it’s called MTR, or mountaintop removal. I defended that practice and allowed it to continue when the hardcore enviros, environmentalists, wanted to abolish the practice back in 1977. Nothing new, we are under attack today. It’s trying to be abolished by certain groups.

“It’s perceived as a dirty fuel, yeah. Other fossil fuel industries like oil and gas have attacked coal using the name of some environmental coalition. That’s a proven fact. I went to the Florida House of Representatives and attacked the oil and gas industry for attacking coal as a dirty fuel and trying to make it look like it was some environmental group behind the attacks. Remember the (ads) with little girls with dirty faces, paid for by some environmental coalition? It was paid for by the oil and gas industry. Coal is always under attack.

“The bill to abolish valley fills, making them illegal, which in essence abolishes mountaintop removal and even regular deep mining. That bill has over 200 co-sponsors on it in the House of Representatives. ... That hits at deep mining as well. That bill is not going anywhere because it has two avenues to get through the House of Representatives. One is to amend the federal surface mining law I mentioned earlier. That bill has to go through my committee, I chair that committee. It ain’t going to happen. The other avenue is to amend the Clean Water Act. That bill has to go through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I’m vice chairman, while the chairman is for the bill, he’s not going to bring it up as a favor to me, so it ain’t going to come up. I’m gone, those who claim I’m anti-coal, ask them what’s going to happen. The bill will go through the House of Representatives 400 to 20 at the best. There are only three districts where MTR is a big issue and done prevalently. ... Most all of it is done in my district. To other members of the Congress across the country, Republicans included, if the vote were allowed to get to the House, which it’s not because of me, would be a freebie for them to throw to environmentalists. That’s why it would pass overwhelmingly.

“Global climate change — let’s not forget it was John McCain and Hillary Clinton that were the main sponsors of climate change legislation in the United States Senate prior to their running for president. It was John McCain who said he wanted to abolish mountaintop removal mining and it was Hillary Clinton for four consecutive years in the Senate who co-sponsored cap and trade legislation much worse than anything we’ve considered in the House of Representatives. My opponent attacks me for endorsing Obama, but ask him, he was in the Democratic Party then, who would he be endorsing in the primary? Obama is from a coal state. He co-sponsored coal to liquid legislation with Jim Bunting from Kentucky. He had coal industry backing when he ran for the United States Senate. That’s what I was looking at when I made that endorsement.

“Climate change, you know science is an idiotic practice. You can take scientists’ facts and figures, and I’m not a scientist, and use them any way you want. The fact of the matter is that the whole world today and the country is looking that there is climate change and it needs to be addressed. Otherwise, why would responsible coal operators from West Virginia be in my office on a regular basis during consideration of the legislation in the Congress trying to make it workable for our coal industry. Because they are feeling pressure from their stockholders. Their stockholders believe the issue is real. Their stockholders want to see that their investments in the coal industry are going to make coal cleaner.

“Climate change — to deny it exists, to just put your head in the sand and, ‘oh no, it doesn’t exist, what are you talking about,’ is about like standing on the floor of Macy’s during the month of December and claiming Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Come on, get real. There are responsible coal operators who work with us and continue to work with us, not only on climate change, but safety is another example.”

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