FRANKFORT, KY (6/5/12) – U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, (KY-01), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, submitted the following official Statement for the Record to the Environmental Protection Agency in advance of today’s public hearing on coal mine permits in Kentucky. The hearing is being held at the Frankfurt Convention Center from 7 to 11 p.m.
Over the past three years, I have been astounded and outraged by actions of the Environmental Protection Agency. This Administration and this EPA have launched an all-out “War on Coal.”
Although EPA has not “crucified” the Kentucky coal industry, yet, it has effectively strangled the industry by blocking individual permits for new and expanded surface mines in Kentucky for more than two years. This is unacceptable.
In March 2010, EPA had reviewed and re-approved Kentucky’s permitting program and, yet, in April 2010, EPA objected to 19 Kentucky discharge permits on the basis of EPA’s Interim Guidance affecting surface mining in Appalachia. This Interim Guidance was issued without any intervening change in the law or regulations, and without any prior notice or public input.
It is appalling that since April 1, 2010, no new or expanded Eastern Kentucky surface mine has received an individual permit.
Since 2009, EPA has rejected 36 draft individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for coal mining discharges in Kentucky. EPA filed a “specific objection” to each of these 36 permits under authority of the Clean Water Act. Part of the procedure for the objections of these permits involves a public hearing. In December 2010, the Kentucky Division of Water requested EPA hold these public hearings, and, approximately a year and a half later, EPA is finally getting around to it. Obviously, EPA sees this more as a burden, than a priority.
In fact, the leadership at EPA had the opportunity to work with Kentucky officials in an effort to come to an agreement about the rejected permits. Instead, EPA officials stood in the way of progress. In March 2011, an agreement was reached between the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and the EPA Region III to negotiate a resolution to the regulatory impasse, only to be blocked by EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. This action by EPA is completely unacceptable.
By stifling the Kentucky coal industry, the EPA is making a direct hit on the Kentucky economy. In 2009, Kentucky produced 112.9 million tons of coal, and Kentucky continues to be one of the top three coal producers in the United States. Additionally, in 2009, the Kentucky coal industry paid $1.437 billion in direct wages, and directly employed 23,340 people, and indirectly provided for three additional jobs to every miner employed, almost 75,000 jobs.
At a time of high unemployment rates, especially in some counties in Kentucky where unemployment remains at more than 10 percent, the EPA should be working with coal states to create and retain jobs, not stop economic growth and directly be responsible for miners losing their jobs.
The impact on jobs is much broader than just in Kentucky. According to a 2010 minority report from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the EPA has blocked action on 190 coal mining permits. The threat this poses to coal communities is alarming. The report found “roughly 1 in every 4 coal mining jobs in the Appalachian region will be at risk of elimination,” and “81 small businesses will lose significant income and will be at risk of bankruptcy and over 2 years of America’s coal supply will be in jeopardy.”
To those working in and around America’s coal fields—or, more precisely, those who once worked there—this is downright hostile and insulting.
Unfortunately, I believe EPA will not be happy until it reaches the goal of Vice President Biden, ‘No coal plants here in America.’ It seems the EPA is certainly well on its way to reaching that goal, at the expense of jobs and our economy.
Information provided by Corry Schiermeyer
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