A new congressional report suggest nearly 18-thousand coal mining jobs, that’s roughly one in every four in the Appalachian region, is at risk of being eliminated by the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to give permit applications for surface mines extra scrutiny.
Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works released the report Friday. They claim federal regulators have held up twice as many Appalachian coal mining permits as publicly reported.
The National Mining Association says the report by the
Republican minority staff of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee shows scores of businesses are threatened as well.
The EPA originally held up 235 applications and has approved just 45 of those applications. The remaining 190 involve operations capable of producing two billion tons of coal and supporting nearly 18-thousand jobs and 81 small businesses.
Increased scrutiny by the EPA has reduced the flow of water quality permits for mines in the region to a trickle.
The report suggests the impact is felt “especially hard in West Virginia and Kentucky, where the majority of the delayed mining operations are located. EPA’s actions, or lack thereof, will also impact other Appalachian states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.”
Earlier this month 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers issued a statement condemning “the EPA’s attack on coal.”
In a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Rogers and twenty-two colleagues requested the agency process pending mining permit applications. The letter referred to the EPA’s new rules as the Obama Administration’s “latest tactic in its war against Appalachian coal.”
“With the EPA’s new rules on surface mining, the Obama Administration has unveiled the latest tactic in its war against Appalachian coal. Over the past eighteen months, the EPA has demonstrated that politics are more important than following well-established, congressionally-approved procedures, and this time the EPA has crossed the line,” stated Rogers. “In these challenging economic times, we cannot afford to put 80,000 jobs on the line because the EPA is undertaking a one-sided power-grab, overriding the states, and changing the rules with no warning and with no good reason. Both Republicans and Democrats have joined me in sending a letter to the EPA that condemns its practice of arbitrarily making new rules that fit its anti-jobs, anti-coal agenda. This bipartisan letter asks the EPA to immediately withdraw the policies that jeopardize mining and mining families throughout Appalachia.”
Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal.
By Mark Peters and Siobhan Hughes Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Republican lawmakers allege that federal regulators have put on hold at least twice as many Appalachian coal-mining permits as publicly disclosed, shutting off an estimated two billion tons of coal production planned for the region.
A report by Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, also finds actions by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration are disproportionately affecting small companies in the eastern U.S.
With 190 permits put under scrutiny as of March, more than the 79 publicly identified by the EPA, about 41% of the Appalachian region's annual coal production is on hold, the report found.
EPA representatives did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.
Here is a related article on a recent EPA public hearing on a water quality permit in West Virginia.
By TIM HUBER
AP Business Writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A largely pro-coal industry crowd urged the Environmental Protection Agency to ease restrictions on surface mining Tuesday.
The venue was a public hearing on an EPA plan to veto a key water quality permit for St. Louis-based Arch Coal's Spruce No. 1 mine. But hundreds of mining industry supporters and environmentalists broadened the discussion to Appalachian surface mining overall.
Under President Barack Obama, the EPA has adopted a policy designed to curtail surface mining by sharply reducing the practice of filling valleys with excess waste in a six-state region.
Though outnumbered and at times out-shouted, members of several regional environmental groups praised the EPA.
"Permits such as Spruce No. 1 bury streams," said Stephanie Tyree, an organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
"And they demolish mountains as you all know but most importantly, Spruce No. 1 would harm people."
Briane McElfish praised the EPA for protecting people, heritage and health.
"The EPA has vetoed this permit because of egregious concerns for environmental safety. Make no mistake environmental safety means your safety," McElfish said.
Sierra Club representative Bill Price praised the EPA.
"This action affirms a commitment to environmental justice. It affirms a commitment to sound science and it affirms a commitment to the protection of all water in Appalachia," he said.
Mining supporters countered that the EPA decision is hurting people, not protecting the environment.
Arch Coal's John McDaniel said the company can't justify investing in the Spruce mine if the EPA can reject the permit at any time.
"We believe all these issues were addressed long ago and are very disappointed."
Tim Hopkins said his small drilling supply business would suffer. "I have been living the American dream," he said. "My comment is let Arch Coal do what they do best and that's mine coal."
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett blasted the agency.
"Your director, Lisa Jackson, literally says I don't care about the economic impact," he said. "It's unfair and it's wrong. It's an injustice."
Debbie Thompson said her neighbor will lose his job at Spruce No. 1. "He won't be able to pay his bills," she said. "It will cause a domino effect."
Logan County school superintendent Wilma Zigmond drew raucous applause when she told the panel that coal provides more than $7.5 million in property taxes for her district.
"Consider the losses, both financial and emotional, and the impact this would have on the Logan County school system," she said. "Remember coal keeps the lights on and our schools running."
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