EPA has declared war on Appalachian coal

BILL RANEY Guest Columnist

May 27, 2010

The EPA has declared a war on Appalachian coal. The agencys apparent intent to rescind the already issued Spruce Mine permit is the first time such an action has been taken and shows a reckless disregard for the impact on our people, on future investment in our region and even basic fairness.
If EPA pursues this course, the very future of mining in our state and region not just mountaintop mining operations or even surface mining but all forms of mining is threatened, and with it the futures of 50,000 West Virginian and 80,000 Appalachian families whose livelihoods depend on mining coal.
We call upon our Congressional representatives, our local and state elected officials and everyone concerned about the future of our state and our region to let the EPA and the Obama Administration know this effort to destroy the Eastern coal industry must come to a stop.
The EPA issued the Spruce Mine permit almost three years ago. During a 10-year review prior to its issuance, the EPA participated along with the other agencies every step of the way during the review and praised the companys efforts to design the project in such a way as to minimize the impact on the environment. In fact, total recoverable reserves of coal were reduced by 10.6 million tons as a result. It is not an exaggeration to say this permit is the most scrutinized mining permit in the history of West Virginia or the Appalachian region.
But the issue goes far beyond a single permit. If EPA revokes the Spruce permit, their action brings into question all forms of economic development across the region anything that requires a company or an individual to move a shovelful of dirt.
The uncertainty this has created is paralyzing to our regions economy.
As Governor Manchin said regarding this permit, This federal bureaucracy is misleading, and is adding excessive red tape that is affecting peoples livelihoods. Government should be a facilitator and partner, not a hindrance to Americans working to obtain the American Dream and that is to have a good job, make a decent wage and provide for their family.
What company would invest in a project -- whether it is a coal mine, a shopping center or a residential development if a permit can be revoked even years after it was granted?
Since the permit was issued in 2007, Arch Coal has made significant investment in the project; people have been hired and are at work. At full production the mine would employ 235 miners and create another 300 indirect and induced jobs in the area.
The jobs created by the Spruce permit would be high-paying, long-term employment opportunities. These jobs would pay approximately $70,000 annually with full benefits and the total economic impact of this operation is estimated at approximately $15 0 million annually.
The EPA and the Obama Administration appear more than willing to sacrifice entire industries, thousands of jobs and bankrupt counties and states even as they ask the American taxpayer to shoulder more and more costs for questionable big government programs.
In his State of the State Address this past January, Governor Manchin stated the issue clearly, Our coal miners arent asking for a handout. They are just asking for the ability to work!
They work hard every day to provide the coal that is the foundation of our state and regional economy and indeed provides the basic raw materials on which our nations economy depends. The time has come to step back from the precipice and put people first to put our families and our economy before politics and personal agendas.