CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A delegation of West Virginia lawmakers, officials and coal industry executives expressed cautious optimism Thursday after meeting at the White House with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
The group of mostly Democrat politicians said the roughly hour-long meeting was a good sign the EPA is willing to listen to concerns about policies and regulations they believe threaten the coal industry.
"They might have thought we were going to come and have a dog and pony show, and that wasn't it at all," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "We came with specifics."
Democrats and Republicans are quick to blast the EPA and President Barack Obama's administration for policies perceived to be detrimental to the coal industry.
After Obama announced in June a plan to cut carbon emissions, pursue clean technology and encourage other countries to close coal-fired power plants, West Virginia politicians from both parties were quick to label the policy a "war on coal."
Last week, state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio announced a trip to Washington to make sure the EPA and administration were receiving the message.
An EPA representative agreed it was a productive meeting.
"It is always helpful to hear views of the West Virginia delegation as we work together to find the best solutions to protect public health and reduce carbon pollution while promoting job growth."
Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and several other state-level Democrats laid out their objections. Manchin, Rahall and others participated in a conference call with media after the morning meeting.
"The purpose wasn't for them to educate us and tell us why their positions are justified," said Speaker of the House Tim Miley, D-Harrison. "The purpose was for them to do more listening than talking, and that was what happened."
Manchin gave McCarthy six different pieces of legislation regarding energy policy and said he appreciated the high-level meeting.
Rahall spoke about permitting action where he feels the EPA has overstepped its bounds, and complimented McCarthy on hearing the group's concerns.
Tomblin, who was not originally slated to go on the trip, said in a news release he told McCarthy hundreds of West Virginians are out of work because of "overzealous, ideological, and financially devastating policies" from the administration.