This evening, the Environmental Protection Agency will hold the first of two public hearings regarding coal mine permits in Kentucky. Due to the Senate voting schedule, Sen. Rand Paul is unable to attend tonight's hearing in Frankfort and has issued the following statement by proxy to introduce for the record.
Members of Sen. Paul's state staff will be in attendance at the meeting to offer statements in defense of Kentucky's coal industry as well.
The second hearing will be held on Thursday, June 7, in Pikeville, Ky.
Below is Sen. Paul's official statement for the record at tonight's public hearing.
United States Senate
Statement for the Record
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)
Regarding Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2012-0315
Thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement, as the Senate calendar does not allow me to attend in person.
These hearings are long overdue. As you know, the state of Kentucky has been requesting hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency's permit objections since December 2010. It has taken EPA nearly two years to respond to their legal obligation to do so. In the meantime, jobs were lost, severance taxes went unpaid, and, according to the Energy Information System, coal production in Eastern Kentucky dropped by 1.5 percent.
The denial of these 36 permits is just another step by the EPA to stifle the coal industry in Kentucky. In objecting to these permits, the EPA has trampled on the rights of the state to oversee its permitting. As I'm sure the EPA is aware, the Clean Water Act specifically gives Kentucky primacy over the 402 permitting scheme. EPA has historically abided by this arrangement. But under the Obama Administration, the coal industry has been subject to "regulation by ambush" on multiple fronts. Most recently, guidance documents put out by the EPA have "restricted applicability" - meaning they only apply to West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and exclude other states with the same environmental properties. Whether it is through the retroactive denial of permits, onerous regulations on coal-fired power plants, or unreasonable environmental requirements, the policies of this Administration are threatening the very way of life that has sustained these Appalachian communities for generations.
The most recent objections to 19 of the 36 permits alone will cost 3,800 coal-related jobs and more than $123 million in coal severance taxes. In addition, the Administration recently finalized a mercury MACT regulation on coal-fired power plants, which is estimated to shutter 62 percent of coal-fired power plants, and cause up to 53,000 job losses in the utility and mining sectors. Another proposed rule to impose unreasonable water quality standards around mines would threaten 7,000 coal-mining jobs, according to the Obama Administration's own experts.
It is time for these practices to end, and these policies to stop. The Clean Water Act and the major mining statute, the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act, have strong federalism components that allow states to take the lead over permitting and enforcement. The EPA needs to honor the intent of the statute and allow Kentucky to exert its primacy authority over these 36 permits.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement.