FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear has appealed again to
President Barack Obama to change federal policies that he said are
costing jobs in Kentucky's coal mining industry.
In a letter to Obama earlier this week, Beshear said the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency is knocking Kentuckians out of
high-paying jobs by obstructing the opening of new mines and the
expansion of existing ones.
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was a follow-up to
a meeting last week between Beshear and Obama at the
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport where they discussed the need
to create jobs.
"In Kentucky, there is a key step you can take toward that goal
- implement fair and reasonable policies for the coal permitting
process," Beshear wrote. "Kentucky has experienced tremendous
frustration over the uncertainty and overreaching policies of the
Environmental Protection Agency."
Beshear said the EPA has unduly delayed 75 mining permits in
eastern Kentucky that would have created crucial jobs at a time
when the nation is struggling to pull out of a national recession.
The governor urged the president to help find a reasonable way
to protect the environment while supporting the mining industry,
which employs about 18,000 people in Kentucky.
"Simply put, the actions by the EPA are obstructing a
substantial opportunity to create and maintain high-paying jobs,
and have the potential to devastate job creation and affordable
energy across the nation," Beshear wrote.
Beshear, a Democrat seeking re-election to a second term, has
been facing criticism from opponents who claim he hasn't done
enough to shield the coal industry from EPA politics. But in the
letter, he explained in great detail his efforts to break the
federal logjam on new mining permits and his frustration when a
"mutually acceptable solution" that he and his top aides worked
out with EPA's southern region administrator, Lisa Jackson, was
rejected by EPA headquarters.
"We must have a reasoned and pragmatic approach to the
regulation of the coal industry from the EPA or all industries that
rely on affordable energy, not the coal industry, will suffer,"
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said the
letter, dated Tuesday, is timely because a decision is imminent on
55 permit applications that are awaiting federal action. That
decision, Bissett said, will determine whether EPA is willing to
reach a balance to protect the environment and mining jobs.
"Because of their actions, pending permits have been in
proverbial limbo and we have miners who can literally see where
their jobs end on the mine site," Bissett said.
The permit issue has been politicized in Kentucky's general
election season. Beshear's chief opponent, Republican David
Williams, has tried to associate Beshear with Obama, suggesting
that he shares the blame for the coal industry's woes.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)