Senator Joe Manchin has been named to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator Manchin wanted to be appointed to this committee, but last week he had indicated that he didn’t think he would get the assignment.  We are sure he is pleased and it is good news for West Virginia.  The committee is chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). 

An Associated Press article earlier this week detailing a U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) report on the impact of the Obama Administration’s war against coal clearly shows the fears of so many West Virginia coal miners are well-founded.

The internal report shows the administration’s policies threaten thousands of coal mining jobs – many if not most right here in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky – and that the administration is pursuing these job-killing policies with full understanding of the economic damage it will do to the mining industry and to our coal mining families.

That this assault is occurring even as the President has instituted a review of federal policies that are impeding economic progress is even more troubling.

According to the report, OSM believes the EPA-driven changes to regulatory policy will destroy more than 20,000 coal mining and related jobs and cost Appalachian states more than $650 million.  The report further says that production at surface coal mines would see cuts of 20-30 percent and it would eliminate up to 50 percent of the UNDERGROUND production nationwide.

Beyond the immediate impact on coal mining families, these policies will increase electricity prices and in doing so drive up prices across the board.

BP released its Energy Outlook report last week, showing power generation in the developing world as the key driver in overall energy consumption growth. Given surging demand, BP forecasts coal to remain the dominant fuel for power generation until 2030, despite projected strong increases in natural gas and renewable fuel utilization over the same period.

West Virginia’s three members of the U.S. House of Representatives are co-sponsoring a bill in a bipartisan effort aimed at restricting the EPA’s authority to veto permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced the legislation clarifying that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have retroactive veto authority under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Original co-sponsors include Representatives Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Nick Rahall (R-W.Va.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Bob Gibbs (R-OH). Representative Gibbs is the current Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The legislation was prompted by the EPA’s decision earlier this month to withdraw the use of certain waters as disposal sites for discharges of fill material authorized under a Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 permit issued in 2007 in connection with the Arch Coal, Mingo Logan, Inc., Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine, located in Logan County, West Virginia. This unprecedented action was the first time EPA retroactively vetoed a validly issued existing 404 permit. Congressman McKinley's legislation would prevent similar action from occurring in the future.

In the first agency oversight action of the 112th Congress for the House Appropriations Committee, the panel put the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on notice that any plans it has to redefine the definition of "fill material" must first be reviewed by the committee. In a letter last week to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said that because an agency redefinition "has such far-reaching implications not only for coal producers but also for our national energy security, we ask that you keep the House Committee on Appropriations apprised of any developments in this area." The chairmen requested EPA brief them on the matter and provide a report by Jan. 31 on "any work the EPA may be undertaking in this issue."

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