McConnell introduces new coal bill; critics say it would hurt eastern Ky.

By: Whitney Burks. Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Whitney Burks. Tanner Hesterberg Email
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Kentucky

MGN Online

 

PIKEVILLE, KY – During stops in Pikeville and Hazard, Kentucky, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced his plans to introduce The Coal Jobs Protection Act. The legislation targets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) coal-mining permit approval process, which is negatively impacting coal-mining jobs in Kentucky.

 

“Coal is a vital part of my State’s economy, and a vital part of America’s energy portfolio,” Senator McConnell said.  “The EPA’s attack on this important Kentucky industry hampers the growth of jobs, and it especially hampers the growth of small business – the greatest engines of job creation.”

 

McConnell was joined in Hazard by Representative Shelly Capito (R-WV), who will introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives.  Senator Rand Paul is an original co-sponsor of McConnell’s legislation, which will be introduced next week.

 

“This EPA has turned the coal permitting process into an illegitimate, back-door means to shut down coal mines permanently, by sitting on permits indefinitely and removing any certainty from the regulatory process. By playing this game of ‘run out the clock,’ they have put many Kentucky mining operations into limbo and cost Kentucky thousands of jobs and over $123 million in coal severance money,” McConnell said. “The EPA is changing the rules in the middle of the game. And they’ve done it all without a single vote in Congress. What EPA is doing is outside the scope if its authority, outside the scope of the law, and represents a fundamental departure from the permitting process as originally envisioned by Congress. So if this administration won’t rein the EPA in, Congress will. Congress must.”

 

Kentucky has nearly forty 402 permits that have been held up since 2008, costing the state thousands of jobs and over $123 million in coal severance money.  It’s estimated that roughly 3,500 mining jobs in Kentucky could be in jeopardy if the EPA doesn’t revise its permit approval process.

 

·         The Coal Jobs Protection Act would end this abuse of the process by the EPA by requiring them to approve or veto 402 permit applications within 270 days of application. If the EPA doesn’t act by that time, the permit would be automatically approved.

 

·         The Coal Jobs Protection Act would give the EPA 90 days after they receive a 404 permit application to begin the approval process for that application. It also gives the president a year to conduct an environmental assessment. Failure to act within that time frame for approval of a 404 permit would mean the application is approved, the permit is issued, and the permit can never be subject to judicial review.

 

·         The Coal Jobs Protection Act would also implement much-needed reform to help farmers, home builders, realtors, transportation-industry workers, municipalities, and manufacturers at risk from the EPA’s wish to impose a back-door national energy tax by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants under the Clean Air Act. Such a move would hurt the economy and endanger millions of jobs across the country.

 

Kentucky’s coal industry employs over 14,000 people directly. For every miner employed, three more Kentuckians hold jobs indirectly dependent on coal, including farmers, realtors, and transportation workers.

 

In 2012, total coal production in Kentucky declined by over 16 percent, and direct employment from coal fell by over 22 percent. Coal production in eastern Kentucky is down by nearly 28 percent, the lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president. As a result, 4,000 miners in eastern Kentucky have lost their jobs—a drop of nearly 30 percent.

 

“The Kentucky Coal Association strongly endorses the Coal Jobs Protection Act presented by Sen. McConnell and urges its favorable consideration by the United States Congress,” said Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett. “Sen. McConnell’s proposed legislation would address many of the issues that have unfairly plagued the Kentucky coal industry under EPA’s recent implementation of the Clean Water Act permit programs. The bill would mandate timely action on permit applications, ensure that the employment and economic impact of federal actions is fully documented and taken into account, restore the appropriate balance between state and federal authority, and prohibit EPA from regulating by means of guidance or other extra-legal means. Passage of the bill would compel EPA to exercise its authority consistent with the rights of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, its local governments and the private sector including the Kentucky coal industry.”

               

“Agriculture and coal have been signature industries in Kentucky for years,” said Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney. “Production agriculture is an energy-intensive industry and timely access to Kentucky’s abundant coal resources is a critical component to sustain our state’s rural communities and the agricultural economy. Kentucky Farm Bureau commends Senator McConnell for his efforts to rally support for the Coal Job Protection Act.”


The Coal Jobs Protection Act has the support of the following organizations: 

                  Coal Jobs Protection Act Coalition

    1. National Mining Association
    2. Kentucky Coal Association
    3. Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
    4. Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation
    5. Kentucky Corn Growers Association
    6. Kentucky Home Builders Association
    7. Associated General Contractors of Kentucky
    8. Coal Operators and Associates
    9. Ashland Alliance
    10. Harlan County Chamber of Commerce
    11. Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce
    12. Henderson-Henderson County Chamber of Commerce
    13. Knox County Chamber of Commerce
    14. London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce
    15. Marion County Chamber of Commerce
    16. Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce
    17. Paintsville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce
    18. Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce
    19. Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
    20. Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
    21. Letcher County Chamber of Commerce
    22. Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce
    23. Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
    24. Commerce Lexington, Inc.
    25. Greater Muhlenberg Chamber of Commerce
    26. Caterpillar Inc.
    27. Kentucky Association of Manufacturers
    28. Kentucky League of Cities

 

The Coal Jobs Protection Act Summary

 

  • Kentucky’s coal industry directly employees over 14,000 people, while indirectly providing 3 additional jobs for every miner employed. (see citation 1)

 

  • However, both coal production and employment is on a steady decline in the state.  In 2012, total coal production throughout the Commonwealth decreased by more than 16.3 percent and direct employment fell 22 percent. (see citation 2)

 

  • The region hit the hardest was Eastern Kentucky, where over 4,000 miners lost their jobs and coal production decreased by nearly 28 percent, the lowest level since 1965. (see citation 2)

 

  • Kentucky has nearly 40 402 permits that have been held up since 2008, costing small communities thousands of jobs and over $123 million in coal severance money. (see citation 3)

 

  • The EPA has turned the permitting process, already a cumbersome process to begin with, into an illegitimate, back-door means of shutting down Kentucky coal mines. This is outside the scope of their authority and the law and represents a fundamental departure from the permitting process as originally envisioned by Congress. 

 

  • The Coal Jobs Protection Act requires the EPA to approve or veto 402 permit applications within 270 days of application. If the EPA doesn’t act during that time, the permit is automatically approved.

 

  • The Coal Jobs Protection Act gives the EPA 90 days after they receive a 404 permit application to begin the authorization process. It also gives the President a year to conduct an environmental assessment.

 

  • The Section 402 and 404 permit review process is only one aspect of the EPA’s war on coal.

 

  • The EPA also is seeking to impose a back-door national energy tax by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants under the Clean Air Act, which will hurt our economy and endanger millions of jobs across the country. (see citation 4)

 

  • Farmers, realtors, and transportation industry workers, who also need permits from the EPA, have contacted the Leader in fear that their businesses are at risk as well. 

 

  • The Coal Jobs Protection Act has critical sections related to the development of 303 (d) lists by EPA which expands its reform beyond the coal industry. 

 

  • The Coal Jobs Protection Act creates the much needed reform in the 303 (d) listing processes that has put farmers, home builders, municipalities and manufacturers at risk of slowing down business development and potentially laying off employees. 

Update, 4/29/13 11:00 p.m.

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Kentucky's senior senator Monday unveiled legislation aimed at streamlining the Environmental Protection Agency's coal mining permit approval process.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the Coal Jobs Protection Act at a speech in Pikeville and also talked about the bill at another stop in Hazard.

McConnell said the bill would help eastern Kentucky's economy, which lost four thousand coal jobs last year.

McConnell, the US Senate minority leader, said the main goal of the bill is "to send a message to this (Obama) administration that we really can't tell you who to appoint But, by golly, if you're going to put these people in these jobs, we want them to have a time limit in which to operate."

If passed, the measure would force the EPA to make quicker decisions on whether to approve coal mining permits.

"Leaving all of these coal businesses in limbo endlessly, a kind of purgatory created by the government itself, makes it impossible to plan," McConnell said.

The bill is already drawing criticism.

"The jobs versus environment issue bothers me," said Suzanne Tallichet, the chair of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. "Because the coal industry doesn't have the best track record for cleaning up after itself and following existing regulations. And if you don't have an environment to tap into, we won't be able to grow new jobs, which is something that is going to have to happen."

Tallichet said the Coal Jobs Protection Act would also reduce transparency in the coal industry.

"The citizens who are being impacted by the mining the permits would allow aren't even going to have a say in whether or not that mining is going on," she said. "Or how it's done or how close it is to their homes."

McConnell plans to introduce the bill in the Senate next week.

He admitted the bill will face stiff opposition in the Democratically-controlled Senate.
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Original story, 4/29/13 6:00 p.m.

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Coal mining jobs are down 30%, and in 2012 coal production dropped nearly 28%.

Many call it the "War on Coal" and blame the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Just because their hostility is undeclared doesn't make it any harder to see. It's apparent all around us," said Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

On Monday McConnell came to Eastern Kentucky to announce proposed legislation meant to fight that war.

"It'll be our best ever weapon of defense to protect the thousands of jobs being targeted by this administration," said McConnell.

The Coal Jobs Protection Act would limit EPA permit regulations, allowing them only 270 days to approve or deny 402 permit applications, otherwise they are automatically approved.

It would also give the EPA 90 days to begin authorizing 404 permit applications, and it would give the president one year to conduct environmental assessments.

McConnell says last year alone coal jobs across the commonwealth dropped 22% and in Eastern Kentucky they dropped 28%. He says this legislation would hopefully reverse that decline.

McConnell's supporters say with increasing demands in electricity the coal industry needs to be saved.

"He protects my rights to go and work in the coal fields, to come home on tired legs and stand on the edge of the football field and watch my kids play sports," said Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard.

The act is co-sponsored by Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Senator McConnell plans to introduce the act to the Senate next week when they are back in session.

This bill is similar to one McConnell and Paul filed in 2011.


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