State’s Political Leadership Discusses Continuing Importance of Coal at Association’s Annual Meeting

West Virginia's Congressional delegation joined together in a question and answer session with coal industry officials.
West Virginia’s Congressional delegation joined together in a question and answer session with coal industry officials.

State’s Political Leadership Discusses Continuing Importance of Coal at Association’s Annual Meeting

West Virginia’s political leadership offered their support for the mining industry during the West Virginia Coal Association’s summer meeting Aug. 1-4.

Speaking to members of the Association, Congressman Rahall (D-3rd District), Congresswoman Capito (R-2nd District) and Congressman McKinley (R-1st District) offered their outlook for working with new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the many other issues enveloping the industry.   They pledged to continue their efforts to defend the industry in Washington, DC.

Capito, who is running for the Senate seat currently held by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, told the crowd that the state’s congressional delegation “speaks with one voice” when it comes to coal issues in Washington. Highly critical of the Obama Administration’s ongoing assault on the coal industry, Capito said the problem is not a “failure to communicate.”

“The problem is that this is an attempt by the administration to legislate through regulation,” Capito said, referring to the efforts by Obama to impose policy through regulation and executive order, bypassing the constitutional separation of powers and the authority of Congress.

Congressman McKinley said that as a freshman in Congress he has taken a page out of his time in the West Virginia Legislature and focused on moving legislation as amendments to existing bills.

“I have been able to get 2 bills passed and 15 amendments passed,” McKinley noted.  One of his bills, the Coal Ash Bill, was recently passed by the House again with the largest vote total to date and he noted that this is one piece of coal-related legislation the president has indicated he will not veto. Now, the next step is to get it through the Senate.

Congressman Rahall said, speaking about the change of leadership at the EPA, that he was “not optimistic but that communication is vital” and that is why he made the trip recently to EPA headquarters to meet with the new agency chief.

He said that he was happy to take part in the bipartisan forum because “coal is a bipartisan issue” and that we can’t afford to make it partisan one.

Rahall noted that the anti-coal crowd in DC has now opened up two new lines of attack against coal, cutting off funding for new coal-fired power plants around the world from the World Bank and using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a weapon against coal.

“FERC also has a new administrator, who is from Colorado and is an activist,” Rahall said. “He has said he believes in ‘legislative rulemaking’ and has indicated he can impose fines of up to $1 million a day for violation of rules.”

Rahall said bringing this assault under control is vital to our future and that is why passage of the REINS Act is so important.  The REINS Act would basically return more power to the Congress and restrict the efforts to enact legislation through regulation being used by the Obama Administration.

Delegate Tim Miley, the newly elected Speaker of the House of Delegates, and Harry Keith White, the newly appointed House Majority Leader, demonstrated their understanding of mining’s impact on the state budget. Miley, who attended a meeting with EPA head McCarthy along with several other state political leaders, stated, “We cannot afford to have the coal industry diminished.  How do you replace $400 million in severance taxes?”

Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s Attorney General, stated that his office would become a national leader on energy issues.  “The Attorney General’s Office is a new weapon in our fight against the EPA,” Morrisey stated.  “We plan to ensure that the EPA doesn’t exceed its statutory authority.”

Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin stated that the WV Supreme Court is operating in a very efficient, predictable and fair manner.  He suggested keeping an eye on the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court, where federal agency claims are heard and where federal policy may become adjudicated as opposed to legislated.

The meeting also included presentations by Sen. Joe Manchin, who discussed pending legislation in the U.S. Senate and Eugene White, the new director of the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

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