By Mannix Porterfield
Imagine all 134 members of the West Virginia Legislature descending on the nation’s capital next week to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on the burning of coal.
Given his way, Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, would relish the idea of the entire Legislature showing up outside the EPA’s doors Thursday to demonstrate against the federal bureaucracy’s regulations, which he considers “hogwash.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Hall said Friday, just two days after the state Democratic Party announced plans to take a much smaller contingent to meet with EPA regulators to discuss what they perceive as unfair regulations.
“We could rent a couple of those big buses that carry about 80 people and all go up there. We could get a State Police escort to leave the state, then have the police in Virginia pick us up and guide us all the way up there.”
Hall isn’t kidding.
After all, he reasoned, once you seat Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, along with other legislative leaders, and mix in members of the West Virginia delegation in Congress, along with at least one staffer per each, there is going to be scant space in the EPA room to accommodate ordinary lawmakers.
A Democratic Party spokesman said the names of all those picked to make the trip likely will be announced Monday.
The question boils down to how many people will be allowed inside the EPA offices and it appears now that number won’t be any greater than 15, the spokesman said.
“After the leadership, we’re still trying to figure out how many people we can take into the meeting,” the spokes-man said.
Hall says the Legislature could go en masse and treat the rally as the August interims.
“We can call the Boy Scouts and ask if we can borrow their buses,” he said, referring to the 10-day jamboree in Fayette County, where some 40,000 Scouts were hauled in by about 800 buses.
Besides lawmakers, Hall said the huge vehicles would have room to take along legislative staffers, members of the United Mine Workers of America, the state Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Coal Association, along with members of the state press corps.
“We had interims in Wheeling,” he said, noting the June gathering was held there to commemorate the first capital in conjunction with West Virginia’s 150th birthday.
“We could have them in D.C. I know it sounds far-fetched, but I really do think it’s a good idea. We have three days of interims and two travel days for people who live far away. We could go up one day, sit on the Capitol steps for three days, then drive back the fifth day. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be beneficial.”
If allowed to confront EPA officials, Hall said his message would mirror that of speakers at the Wednesday news conference — that the regulatory agency is killing off the coal industry and creating economic malaise in Appalachia.
“We all want clear water, clean air and a safe environment,” the 9th District senator said. “But the restrictions that they’re trying to do really have nothing to do with that. They’re not reasonable. They want to shut down the coal industry. We’re looking for reasonable regulations. The coal industry can meet reasonable regulations.”
Hall said foreign countries such as China, Russia and Mexico operate under less stringent regulations, so America would contribute little to the planet by curtailing emissions.
“We’re a small part of the world economy,” Hall said.
“Any change we make is going to be completely insignificant. I think it’s all a bunch of hogwash.”
— E-mail: Mannix@register-herald.com