At least one member of Congress has had enough of the yo-yo that is the technical legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s manipulation of the Clean Water Act to crush Appalachia’s energy sector. As a result of recent appellate court decisions allowing the EPA to retroactively reverse mining permits already approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sen. Mitch McConnell announced this week that he will be introducing the Coal Jobs Protection Act in Congress.
The Coal Jobs Protection Act would put actual constraints on the EPA’s power to reject mining permits by requiring the bureaucracy to make a decision on a mining permit within 270 days for mining operations that risk runoff, and 90 days for mining operations that involve clearing soil. Currently – and predictably – there is no timetable for how long the EPA can take to reject or approve a mining permit, resulting in business uncertainty, less business investment, and less desperately needed Appalachian jobs.
It seems the EPA would rather let permit applications wallow in no-man’s-land than actually take a stance on a mining operation and face the potential blow-back that would come with it. As Jim Waters, President of the Bluegrass Institute, recently put it, it’s about time for the EPA to “man up” by announcing a decision within a reasonable time-frame, or shut up.
McConnell joins four of West Virginia’s five members of Congress to speak out publicly against the appellate court’s acquiescence to the EPA’s unilateral mandates. According to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, “One agency grants a permit, another agency takes it away and business suffers in the end. The federal government should be an ally, not an adversary, in helping to strike a balance between protecting the environment and creating good American jobs.”
McConnell hammered the point home in his recent press conference:
“Just because [the current administration’s war on coal] is undeclared doesn’t make it any harder to see. It’s apparent all around us…[The Coal Jobs Protection Act will] be our best ever weapon of defense to protect the thousands of jobs being targeted by this administration.”