CHARLESTON — Friday’s Congressional hearing on the EPA’s revocation of the three-year old permit for the Spruce Mine clearly revealed the impact of the EPA’s war on coal … and indeed its war on American industry… on jobs in Logan County and across the country.
The list of attendees was in itself telling – West Virginia was there in the form of Sen. Art Kirkendoll. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Manufacturer’s Association were there. Yet, despite being asked to attend, no one from the Obama Administration or the EPA chose to attend the hearing. Apparently they had better things to do than talk about jobs.
Had the EPA not revoked its permit, the Spruce Mine would provide much-needed jobs and a substantial economic boost to Logan and Boone counties and to the surrounding area, but the issue goes far beyond a single mining permit. It is rather about trust… about the most important component of the relationship between people and their government.,
Ten years went into the development of the Spruce Mine permit – 10 years in which the EPA was consulted at each step along the way. The mining plan was approved by EPA and all other agencies and the permit issued. The company then began taking the steps to begin production, making investment in equipment, land and development. The company began hiring coal miners.
Three years later, in the wake of the change to the Obama Administration, the new leaders of the EPA moved to revoke the permit. In doing so, it cast into doubt every permit issued by the federal government for any purpose – and in the words of Rep. Lamborn, “made them not worth the paper they are printed on.”
Committee members today spoke about the “chilling effect” this action, and others like it, by an “out-of-control EPA” have had on American business, on jobs and investment. We feel that effect here in West Virginia more and more every day as far too many of our coal mining families are facing layoffs and uncertainty.
In March 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson – herself an Obama appointee — rejected the EPA’s veto decision with a very clear decision, declaring that the agency overstepped it’s authority and engaged in “magical thinking.” Despite this, in May, the EPA announced that it would appeal the judge’s decision and within 72 hours issued impossible to meet greenhouse gas rules. It seems they are blinded to anything beyond their narrow political agenda and will stop at nothing to implement it at the expense of our people.
We have recently seen stories that imply the EPA’s war on coal isn’t real, and they point to a recent uptick in mining employment as evidence. They suggest the policies pursued by the Obama EPA have somehow led to this increase in hiring. We want to assure you that we welcome the opportunity to hire miners and we were able to do so because we believe in our industry and we see a need to begin hiring and training a new generation as much of our current workforce nears retirement age, but let me make this clear, this increase in employment happened due to the hard work of our mine management teams who were able to modify existing mining plans to remain within current permits. By doing so, we were able to take advantage of overseas markets, increase exports of our coal and keep our people working. We could have done so much more, hired more of our hard-working West Virginians had we simply been given the new permits and granted the modifications to existing ones.
All the while we were saying it was a “crisis in waiting” – out there, just over the horizon. The crisis isn’t waiting anymore. The storm is upon us and now we must act.
In the past, of course, mining permit requirements have changes, but those changes were always applied to the “next” permits – have usually not been applied retroactively as standards to existing permits. Yet in the case of Spruce and other examples coming in from across the country, the EPA has “shifted the goal posts” – changing certainty into uncertainty and hope into despair – and that isn’t America.
I would like to thank the Committee and its members for holding the hearing and casting some light on this issue – exposing the rogue behavior of this agency. We would also like to thank State Senator Art Kirkendoll, of Logan County; Ms. Karen Harbert , president and CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy, US Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Ross Eisenberg, National Association of Manufacturers, VP, Energy and Resources Policy and especially Rep. David McKinley, (R-WV) for their help in bringing this issue before this committee.