The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 15, 2009

EPA assures Rahall it’s not out to destroy coal

Angst is snowballing in the West Virginia coalfields over the Obama administration’s delay in ruling on surface mine permits, but Rep. Nick Rahall tried to assure miners Thursday there is no covert goal to shut the industry down.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told Rahall at a hearing her agency supports mining in Appalachia, after he put such a question to her.

“Unequivocally,” she told him, “neither EPA nor I personally have any desire to end coal mining, have any hidden agenda whatsoever, that has to do with coal mining as an industry.”

Rahall, D-W.Va., had asked her point-blank if the EPA was attempting to erase mining through regulation, as Gov. Joe Manchin intimated two weeks ago.

“As you may be aware, some of the more ardent and vocal opponents to what the EPA is doing claim that you want to end all coal mining,” Rahall said.

“Again, for the record, is that the case?”

Hoping to end the gridlock, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, entered the fray Thursday by calling on Jackson to speed up the decision on 79 stalled permits, including 23 in West Virginia.

And Tomblin said he wants swift action.

“It is of the utmost importance that this situation be resolved not in a matter of weeks, but days,” he told the EPA.

“In view of the state of limbo the industry and those who depend upon it seem to be occupied with at this time, it appears to me and a great many others that one of the things you and the EPA could do to graciously help us is to make an expedient decision.”

Rahall advised Jackson at the hearing that concerns abound in his state that her agency is failing to provide clear-cut directions with permits regarding expanded scrutiny to see if they pass muster with the Clean Water Act.

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