Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) is adamant in his belief that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy simply does not care about West Virginians and the hundreds of coal jobs that have been lost over the past few years.
During a House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Rep. Jenkins had harsh words for McCarthy.
Jenkins, and his fellow Budget Committee members, held the meeting for the EPA’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.
Rep. Jenkins asked Administrator McCarthy if she has ever visited West Virginia since taking charge of the agency in 2013. She told him and the committee that she had never been to the Mountain State.
“I’ve gone through the budget line by line,” Jenkins said. “It is a unique position to be able to have direct influence into the EPA’s direct budget.”
“I’ve said from day one that we are going to use the power of the purse to try to stop the war on coal. We cut half a billion dollars out of the president’s current fiscal year proposed budget.”
“The hearing this morning was on next year’s budget,” Jenkins added.
“I asked McCarthy had she ever been to our state to see the pain and the hurt,” Jenkins stressed. “She said I don’t think so!”
“She has headed up the EPA for three years. She knows she has never been to West Virginia – and that she won’t,” Jenkins added. “She doesn’t have the guts to come here and see the damage that she is causing.”
“She just doesn’t get it,” Jenkins said of the EPA Director. “Fortunately she will be out of that position in a few months.”
“There are a couple of things we found in this proposed budget. Number one is this administration has loaded it up with tens of millions of dollars to fund their climate change war on coal agenda. We are going to do everything we can to cut that out. But we also see in the budget where there is important funding that can help with water and sewer treatment in southern W.Va.”
“In the president’s proposed budget for next year, he is proposing a $400 million cut in infrastructure for clean water state grants.”
These grants are what our water systems and public service districts rely on,’ the first term congressman said. “The president is proposing deep cuts to that program,” he added.
“He is short-changing clean water and sewage treatment to fund money for his climate change and war on coal agenda,” Jenkins said. “We are going to use our position on the Appropriations Committee and get miners back to work.”
Jenkins told McCarthy that more than 50 percent of coal jobs have been lost in the last few years. He said that when January rolls around, McCarthy will no longer have her position once a new administration takes office.
“As I said in this hearing, this budget is Obama’s final chapter in his war on coal,” Jenkins said.
“We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country,” Jenkins emphasized.
“Our state budget is in shambles because of the loss of coal severance tax money,” he added. “This just doesn’t impact miners.”
Jenkins said the ripple effect has caused the economy to plummet under the current president. He has been sharing coal stories in congressional meetings of families of laid off coal miners.
Does Rep. Jenkins believe coal can make a comeback?
“We’ve been through booms and busts before. This one is different – it’s not just a cycle,” Jenkins said. “It is going to require a lot of hard work to get coal back, but that is what we are trying to do every day.”
“I think coal does have a future,” an optimistic Jenkins said. “I will never give up on coal. Coal has never given up on our country.”
Jenkins said coal and the energy it has produced has made the country run for years.
“We are not going to let an anti-coal president ruin what we can do and what we do so well here in West Virginia,” he added.
“There has been a lot of pain – but we are not giving up on it,” Jenkins stressed. “That is who we are and what we have done for generations.”
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)