FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
would have to review mining permit applications more quickly under
legislation filed Tuesday by two Appalachian lawmakers who say they
want to boost coalfield employment.
U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Shelley Moore Capito of
West Virginia introduced a House version of the so-called Mining
Jobs Protection Act that they say would protect Appalachian coal
miners from "strangulation by regulation."
The House bill, similar to one filed in the Senate last week,
would give the EPA up to 60 days to accept or reject permit
applications so that mining companies aren't left waiting
indefinitely to learn whether they'll be allowed to open new
operations or to expand existing ones. Kentucky Coal Association
President Bill Bissett said the current waiting period is one of
the top complaints of the mining industry. He said some companies
have had to wait years for a response.
Coal state lawmakers have complained that the EPA, under the
Obama administration, has used the permitting process of the
federal Clean Water Act against the mining industry.
"Continued and arbitrary delays in the permitting process are
threatening to put our people out of work," Rogers said in a
statement Tuesday. "With unemployment hovering at 9 percent, our
job-creating industries need regulatory certainty - not more of
EPA's aggressive and overzealous strangulation by regulation."
Capito accused the EPA of "advancing an anti-coal agenda" by
holding up or revoking permits to open coal mines.
"Intentionally delaying the approval process has led to a
slow-bleed of jobs throughout Appalachia at a time when we should
be focusing on making it easier for businesses to stay afloat,"
she said. "Our miners should be able to conduct their day-to-day
business and make investments in the future without a veil of
uncertainty hovering over the industry. Thousands of my
constituents depend on the mining industry to put food on the
table, and I will fight to keep it from being targeted by those who
wish to use regulatory authority to launch the so-called 'war on
U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim
Inhofe of Oklahoma previously introduced similar legislation in the
Senate that would require the EPA to move faster in granting
federal permits needed to open coal mines.
The EPA acknowledged in a statement last week that coal is
important to the nation's energy future, but defended its actions
in regulating coal.
"Appalachian families should not have to choose between clean
water and a healthy economy - they deserve both," the EPA said in
the statement Thursday. "EPA has set commonsense guidelines that
allow companies to mine coal while avoiding permanent and
irreversible damage to water quality."
Environmentalists have defended the EPA, saying the agency is
taking needed steps to evaluate permit applications. The group
Appalachian Voices said EPA has to consider the impacts of mining
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)