WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) told Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today that she cannot understand the impact the administration’s war on coal has had on West Virginians without visiting the state.
“Administrator, West Virginians are a proud people. We want to work. We want to provide a better future for our children. Let us do the work we have done for generations – work that provides good paychecks and keeps the lights on. And until you actually visit the coalfields of West Virginia, you will never understand the impact of your actions,” he said at a House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies hearing today.
At the hearing on 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.
“I cannot recall,” McCarthy said.
Rep. Jenkins said the administration’s single-minded drive to push its environmental agenda without considering the consequences and jobs lost is killing West Virginia’s economy.
“Regardless of one’s belief in the president’s climate change agenda, his drive, your drive to succeed has been devastating to the people of West Virginia and to the tens of thousands of others across this country who work to fuel this nation,” Rep. Jenkins said.
“Today we have before us the president’s request to fund the final chapter in this administration’s war on coal. You know, for almost eight years, the administration has unapologetically and systematically worked to shut down our country’s most abundant, reliable and cheapest form of energy, coal. But what this administration and the EPA doesn’t understand is what their actions have done to the people of West Virginia.
“So Ms. McCarthy, in your official role as the head of the EPA, have you actually been to West Virginia?
Administrator McCarthy’s reply: “I cannot recall.”
“I know you were invited, so since you refuse to come to West Virginia, you simply don’t understand, in my opinion, how your agency has devastated my state. Here’s what life is like for many families in Southern West Virginia.
“Coal jobs have plunged more than 50 percent in just the last five years. You know, these are good jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for a coal miner is over $84,000 per year. Compare that to our state’s average wage, which is less than $37,000 a year.
“Coal jobs provide a true, living wage that support a family. Coal jobs also come with really good benefits – a pension and health care benefits a retiree can count on. But not anymore. The bankruptcies of our country’s largest coal companies have left pensioners and widows desperate for help. And because of your actions, West Virginia now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire country.
“For the past few months, I’ve been sharing the stories of West Virginia families on the House floor as part of my West Virginia Coal Voices project. Mothers, fathers, coal miners, small business owners, they’re all worried about their future.
“April Brooks of Mercer County is the wife of a coal miner and says she wonders if her family has a future in West Virginia. Here’s what she wrote me:
‘“Like every family that depends on coal for a living, we live day to day worrying about what will happen tomorrow. You can’t plan for the future because of the uncertainty. We love our state, but how does one stay here and survive if the jobs aren’t there?’
“Administrator, your war on coal impacts so many more people and businesses than just the thousands of direct coal mining jobs. Teresa Haywood of McDowell County owns a small business, and her customers are affected by the coal layoffs. Here’s what she wrote me:
‘“Our business has dropped majorly, and I am struggling day to day to just try to decide to pay the bills or to restock. People keep asking if I am going to keep my business open.’
“The war on coal also affects our schools, our police, our fire departments, all of which are funded by coal severance taxes. In just the last few years, severance tax revenue has dropped by nearly $150 million in West Virginia. As coal mines shut down, communities have less and have to make tough choices.
“The Supreme Court has already said you erred in not considering the economic costs of your regulations, and the Government Accountability Office said you acted in ‘covert propaganda’ and grassroots lobbying in violation of federal law. But, despite our best efforts, you have succeeded in wrecking our economy and ruining the lives and livelihoods of thousands of our citizens.
“Regardless of one’s belief in the president’s climate change agenda, his drive, your drive to succeed has been devastating to the people of West Virginia and to the tens of thousands of others across this country who work to fuel this nation.
“Administrator, West Virginians are a proud people. We want to work. We want to provide a better future for our children. Let us do the work we have done for generations – work that provides good paychecks and keeps the lights on.
“And until you actually visit the coalfields of West Virginia, you will never understand the impact of your actions.