EPA hearings on coal fuel emotions

“A former senior EPA official under the Obama administration recently summed up the regulatory philosophy of the agency with respect to those working in the coal business by saying it wants to ‘crucify’ them. - Mitch McConnell

Thousands of coal miners are expected to rally in Frankfort today and again Thursday in Pikeville as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds hearings on 36 mine permits.


Coal supporters will urge the EPA to approve the permits. Miners say the permits will save their jobs and put hundreds of other laid-off miners back to work during these fragile economic times.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are planning a simultaneous demonstration to press the EPA to stand its ground. They argue the proposed mining operations would pollute streams.

The issue has fueled a heated debate in Kentucky and other coal producing states for more than two years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly accused the Obama administration of waging a “war on coal” and using “back-door” tactics to shut down coal mines.

Today the Republican Senator continued his assault, charging his coalfield constituents are under siege by the EPA.

“A former senior EPA official under the Obama administration recently summed up the regulatory philosophy of the agency with respect to those working in the coal business by saying it wants to ‘crucify’ them. 



Kentucky Senator Rand Paul issued this statement late this afternoon.  Paul said he will be unable to attend tonight’s hearing due to the Senate’s voting schedule but will have this statement introduced into the hearing’s record.



Thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement, as the Senate calendar does not allow me to attend in person.

These hearings are long overdue.  As you know, the state of Kentucky has been requesting hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency’s permit objections since December 2010.  It has taken EPA nearly two years to respond to their legal obligation to do so.  In the meantime, jobs were lost, severance taxes went unpaid, and, according to the Energy Information System, coal production in Eastern Kentucky dropped by 1.5 percent.

The denial of these 36 permits is just another step by the EPA to stifle the coal industry in Kentucky.  In objecting to these permits, the EPA has trampled on the rights of the state to oversee its permitting.  As I’m sure the EPA is aware, the Clean Water Act specifically gives Kentucky primacy over the 402 permitting scheme.  EPA has historically abided by this arrangement.  But under the Obama Administration, the coal industry has been subject to “regulation by ambush” on multiple fronts.   Most recently, guidance documents put out by the EPA have “restricted applicability” – meaning they only apply to West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and exclude other states with the same environmental properties.  Whether it is through the retroactive denial of permits, onerous regulations on coal-fired power plants, or unreasonable environmental requirements, the policies of this Administration are threatening the very way of life that has sustained these Appalachian communities for generations.

The most recent objections to 19 of the 36 permits alone will cost 3,800 coal-related jobs and more than $123 million in coal severance taxes.  In addition, the Administration recently finalized a mercury MACT regulation on coal-fired power plants, which is estimated to shutter 62 percent of coal-fired power plants, and cause up to 53,000 job losses in the utility and mining sectors.  Another proposed rule to impose unreasonable water quality standards around mines would threaten 7,000 coal-mining jobs, according to the Obama Administration’s own experts. 

It is time for these practices to end, and these policies to stop.  The Clean Water Act and the major mining statute, the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act, have strong federalism components that allow states to take the lead over permitting and enforcement.  The EPA needs to honor the intent of the statute and allow Kentucky to exert its primacy authority over these 36 permits.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement. 

-Senator Rand Paul



Today’s EPA hearing is at the Frankfort Convention Center at 7pm. 


The EPA will conduct two hearings Thursday in Pikeville at 4pm and 7pm. Both are at the Pikeville Expo Center.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this issue.  I’ll share some of your comments on our newscasts and here on the blog.


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