U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill today to target the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) coal-mining permit approval process, which is negatively impacting coal-mining jobs in Kentucky. Last week, Sen. McConnell announced his plans to introduce the Coal Jobs Protection Act during stops in Pikeville and Hazard, Kentucky. The measure is cosponsored by Senator Rand Paul and is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Shelly Capito (R-WV).
Kentucky's coal industry employs over 14,000 people directly. For every miner employed, three more Kentuckians hold jobs indirectly dependent on coal. But in 2012, total coal production in Kentucky declined by over 16 percent, and direct employment from coal fell by over 22 percent. Eastern Kentucky has suffered the most. Coal production in the region is down by nearly 28 percent, the lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president. As a result, 4,000 miners in eastern Kentucky have lost their jobs--a drop of nearly 30 percent.
"I think it's clear what this administration's true goal is. It's not to see the coal industry actually comply with so many unreasonable regulations and red tape. It's to see the coal industry driven out of business altogether," Senator McConnell said. "The EPA has turned the coal permitting process into an illegitimate; back-door means to shut down coal mines permanently by sitting on permits indefinitely and removing any certainty from the regulatory process. The Coal Jobs Protection Act, which I introduced today and cosponsored with my good friend Senator Rand Paul, will be our best weapon of defense to protect the thousands of jobs targeted by this administration and its war on coal."
The Coal Jobs Protection Act would require the EPA to approve or veto 402 permit applications within 270 days of application. If the EPA doesn't act by that time, the permit would be automatically approved.
The Coal Jobs Protection Act would give the EPA 90 days after they receive a 404 permit application to begin the approval process for that application. It also gives the president a year to conduct an environmental assessment. Failure to act within that time frame for approval of a 404 permit would mean the application is approved, the permit is issued, and the permit can never be subject to judicial review.
Despite a recent federal appeals court decision, EPA should not have the authority to retroactively deny permits that have already been approved. The Coal Jobs Protection Act is even more essential in light of that destructive ruling.
"The Kentucky Coal Association strongly endorses the Coal Jobs Protection Act presented by Sen. McConnell and urges its favorable consideration by the United States Congress," said Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett. "Sen. McConnell's proposed legislation would address many of the issues that have unfairly plagued the Kentucky coal industry under EPA's recent implementation of the Clean Water Act permit programs. The bill would mandate timely action on permit applications, ensure that the employment and economic impact of federal actions is fully documented and taken into account, restore the appropriate balance between state and federal authority, and prohibit EPA from regulating by means of guidance or other extra-legal means. Passage of the bill would compel EPA to exercise its authority consistent with the rights of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, its local governments and the private sector including the Kentucky coal industry."
"Agriculture and coal have been signature industries in Kentucky for years," said Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney. "Production agriculture is an energy-intensive industry and timely access to Kentucky's abundant coal resources is a critical component to sustain our state's rural communities and the agricultural economy. Kentucky Farm Bureau commends Senator McConnell for his efforts to rally support for the Coal Job Protection Act."
The Coal Jobs Protection Act has the support of the following organizations:
Coal Jobs Protection Act Coalition
1. National Mining Association
2. Kentucky Coal Association
3. Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
4. Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation
5. Kentucky Corn Growers Association
6. Kentucky Home Builders Association
7. Associated General Contractors of Kentucky
8. Coal Operators and Associates
9. Ashland Alliance
10. Harlan County Chamber of Commerce
11. Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce
12. Henderson-Henderson County Chamber of Commerce
13. Knox County Chamber of Commerce
14. London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce
15. Marion County Chamber of Commerce
16. Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce
17. Paintsville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce
18. Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce
19. Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
20. Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
21. Letcher County Chamber of Commerce
22. Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce
23. Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
24. Commerce Lexington, Inc.
25. Greater Muhlenberg Chamber of Commerce
26. Caterpillar Inc.
27. Kentucky Association of Manufacturers
28. Kentucky League of Cities