Though the Environmental Protection Agency continues to take advantage of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling enabling the EPA to use the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to unilaterally single out Appalachian coal mining, Kentucky and West Virginia have not sat idly.
Far from it. Last year, Kentucky legislators followed West Virginia in introducing the Intrastate Coal and Use Act, a bill that would cite the Tenth Amendment to prevent federal administrators from encroaching on the rights of the states to regulate local commerce.
If passed, the act would “exempt coal mines and coal alteration facilities that mine or alter coal in Kentucky for use exclusively within the Commonwealth from requirements of the Clean Water Act.” The obstacle to such a bill is federal administrators’ tendency to play fast and loose with the infamous Commerce Clause in the US Constitution to regulate all aspects of a state’s economic activity.
The commonsense question that the US Court of Appeals will have to answer is this: Which party knows better how to strike a balance between the economic vitality of Kentucky coal and the environmental concerns which come with it – the directly affected local citizens, or far-away bureaucrats like the EPA?