Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  Frank Pallone, Jr.
Date: Sept. 21, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALLONE. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, this amendment would take away the EPA's authority under the Clean Water Act to retroactively deny permits to fill streams and wetlands in order to protect drinking water supplies, recreational waters, and fish and wildlife habitat. Now EPA has used this authority to veto permits after they were issued responsibly only three times in 40 years. All of these were extremely rare cases and these vetoes were necessary to protect critical water resources.

In 1981, EPA revoked a permit for a solid waste landfill because it was leaking toxics into Biscayne Bay. In 1989, after objecting to a permit before it was issued, it overturned a permit to destroy 1,200 acres of flood plain wetlands in Georgia. And in 2010, which Mr. McKinley mentions, EPA denied a permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia that would have buried more than six miles of West Virginia streams and polluted downstream waters with mining waste, causing permanent damage to ecosystems and streams. The veto was not a surprise--and I stress that. EPA consistently expressed its concerns about water quality impacts of this mine beginning from 2002 to 2006, when the Corps issued the permit.

Let me stress this was an extremely rare action taken by EPA. And the first time it was used, it used the Clean Water Act to overturn an approved mining permit. The surface mining in the steep slopes of Appalachia has disrupted the biological integrity of an area about the size of Delaware, buried approximately 2,000 miles of streams with mining waste, and contaminated downstream areas with toxic elements. People have been drinking the byproducts of coal waste from mountaintop removal for more than two decades. Rather than clean and clear water running out of their faucets, the people of Appalachia are left with orange or black liquid instead.

This is not just about the environment, Mr. Speaker; it's about public health. The health problems caused by exposure to these chemicals and heavy metals include cancer, organ failure, and learning disabilities. Not only that, but there are multiple cases of children suffering from asthma, headaches, nausea, and other symptoms likely due to toxic contamination from coal dust. This is an environmental justice issue. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle will claim EPA is killing jobs. I disagree with Mr. McKinley. What the

EPA is doing is protecting the people of Appalachia from exposure to toxic chemicals that are harming them.

Now to put this in perspective, each year the Army Corps of Engineers processes about 60,000 permits to fill waters and grants 97 percent of them. Over 40 years, the EPA has vetoed only three of these permits retroactively. On the very rare occasion one of these permits threatens to permanently destroy our Nation's critical water resources, the EPA should have the authority to stop it. This is authority that the EPA has used very rarely, and there is no evidence that the EPA has abused this authority.

This amendment is completely unnecessary. I urge Members to oppose it and to protect EPA's authority to safeguard our waters and our drinking water sources.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I want to point out that, in addition to this being a terrible amendment, it's also an amendment that's going nowhere. And it really frustrates me that on the last day of the session before the election, this do-nothing Congress continues to bring up bills that are going nowhere--and they know are going nowhere.

For 2 years, the House Republicans have picked millionaires over Medicare and the middle class. Now they plan to leave town today without entering into law any responsible deficit reduction, any middle class tax cuts, the American Jobs Act. They have no jobs bill. The farm bill they have neglected. The Violence Against Women Act. These are all urgent priorities that we should be working on right now rather than trying to pass amendments or bills that are going nowhere.

The American people can't afford a do-nothing Republican Congress that refuses to act on issues critical to middle class families, to small businesses, to farmers, and to women. I urge the Republican leadership to just stay in town and complete our work. Don't waste our time on bills like this that are going nowhere. The Senate is never going to take this up.

Now here are a few of the things that the do-nothing Republican Congress has found time to do:

Voted to end Medicare as we know it and increase costs on seniors by $6,400.

Republicans chose millionaires over the middle class, giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest.

Republicans vote for corporations that ship jobs overseas over passing the American Jobs Act.

Republicans voted to restrict women's access to health services.

It is amazing to me that we sit here hour after hour on the last day because they refuse to continue to work and talk about bills going nowhere, when all these other major priorities need to be addressed.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I'm very much aware that the EPA's veto was challenged by the mining company, and the EPA has appealed this ruling. I'm hoping that the Court of Appeals will see the light and understand that the EPA should be able to protect the health of the people of Appalachia.

Again, this amendment is completely unnecessary, and it's part of a process where this Republican House does absolutely nothing but waste our time. We shouldn't be leaving today. We should be staying and doing our work.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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