The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

October 1, 2009

Rahall: Mine permit delay is just EPA doing its job

Congressman says industry knew review was coming, not happy with Manchin charge

The Environmental Protection Agency is simply doing its job by holding up surface mining permits and the industry was well aware a year ago the review was coming, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said Thursday.

Rahall took exception to Gov. Joe Manchin’s charge that the EPA was out to ban surface mining through regulation since it cannot be done via legislation.

“They can’t do it either way,” Rahall said in an interview from his Capitol office.

“And I think that is being fair to coalfield residents and to the industry. By the time it all shakes out, I hope that there will be certainty and a clear path forward through which industry can make continued permit applications, providing jobs in our coal industry, which is so vital. I recognize that as much as the next person.”

In an announcement a day earlier, the EPA said it was holding 79 permits in abeyance for study, among them 23 in West Virginia. Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said, “They want to call it an enhanced review, but it is truly an enhanced moratorium ... It’s a continuation of them pursuing their personal opinions through public policy at the EPA level.”

Manchin, speaking to West Virginia MetroNews on Thursday from Berlin, said, “Right now, my belief is that they’re trying to kill off surface mining through regulation what they cannot get done through legislation.”

The governor said the EPA doesn’t like mining, especially surface mining.

“I didn’t believe that before,” he added. “I was hoping they were looking for a better way and a better use that we could all agree upon. But that’s not their actions and that’s not what I see.”

Manchin said the state’s congressional delegation needs to speak out loud and clear.

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