EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSATTACK ON COAL, PART 1
from Eyewitness News Online
Coal Leaders Say Current Administration Makes It Tougher For Them To Do Their Jobs
Reported by: Rick Lord
Web Producer: Rick Lord
Also Contributing: Troy Morgan
Reported: May. 2, 2012 9:17 PM EDT
Updated: May. 3, 2012 4:16 PM EDT
, West Virginia
Coal leaders say their industry is under attack by the Obama Administration.
"No one in Washington is listening," says WV Coal Association President Bill Raney. "No one at EPA seems to care a thing about West Virginia."
He says the EPA constantly changes the rules in the middle of the game, and implements its own interpretations, almost arbitrarily, during the permitting process.
"It's terrifically frustrating," laments Raney. "It's the worst I've ever seen in terms of uncertainty (and) not being able to get permits in any kind of predictable fashion."
Woven into that frustration and uncertainty is a sense that those who make decisions in D.C. are doing so with a clear purpose-- to put coal out of business.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama said while campaigning in California that
"if somebody wants to build a coal-fired plant they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted"
WV DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman says it didn't take long for the EPA to start laying down the law.
"In 2009, immediately upon this administration taking office, and I literally mean immediately, like on inauguration day," says Huffman, "they issued a letter objecting to a permit."
That letter targeted valley fills, a clear effort, Huffman says, to use stricter water quality standards to shut down mountaintop removal mines. But a few things remain problematic to the DEP. First, to this day no one knows exactly what the standards are-- they haven't been made public. Secondly, since the guidelines apply to all mines, surface or underground, it's caused a logistical nightmare.
"What used to be the standard for meeting water quality standards and getting a permit from the state of West Virginia," argues Huffman, "has now been turned on its head so you never know what the standard is going to be. And it has significantly slowed the process and in my mind has not added any value to water quality protection. That's the biggest tragedy of the whole thing, there's really no accountability on the part of EPA through this process."
Industry leaders also feel the EPA has tried to force its will on the energy sector without going through the proper legislative channels. 22 states have now filed suit against the federal agency, claiming it has overstepped its authority.
Regardless, coal companies say they will try to stay in compliance, and do what they can to keep the lights on.
"Whatever the rules are, whatever the laws and the regulations are, we're going to abide by them," says Rick Nida with Alpha Natural Resources. "We'll learn how to work through that. Gas prices will recover at some point, as will the world economy. and the weather will change. So, some of this is cyclic, it's just a good bit of it is hitting at the same time. but we'll recover. There's no way that we can power the us or the world's electricity needs without coal. there's simply no other way to do it."
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