IT was easy to be skeptical two weeks ago when state Democratic leaders announced, with great fanfare, they were going to Washington to talk with the Obama administration about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
They gave a day and a list of state Democrats who would attend, but no one to meet with and no location.
They could have been like so many protestors who stand in front 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. carrying signs and pleading with tourists to support their cause.
After all, many West Virginia supporters of President Barack Obama had not received a respectable audience from the president or the previous EPA head.
Democratic 3rd District Rep. Nick Rahall reported that former chief Lisa Jackson would not return his phone calls. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin got no response, not even an acknowledgement, to three letters he sent to the former cabinet secretary.
So it was refreshing that the delegation of Democrats and coal industry leaders actually got an audience with new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
While it is probably safe to say that McCarthy hasn't put a Friends of Coal sticker on her car, the fact that she met with and listened to the delegation is better reception for the state's coal industry than it had ever received before from the Obama administration.
Gov. Tomblin said he told McCarthy "that hundreds of West Virginians are now out of work due to EPA's overzealous, ideological, and financially devastating policies that have led to the closure of coal mines and coal-fired power plants in our state."
Speaker of the House Tim Miley, D-Harrison said "the purpose was for them to do more listening than talking, and that was what happened."
Vice President Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association emerged from the meeting saying he was hopeful and that McCarthy was taking careful notes. "She clearly acknowledged our concerns," he said.
Time will tell how much of that hope, if any, will be justified. Despite the meeting, many remain skeptical.
After all, the president's new climate change initiatives, along with actions already underway by the EPA, have delayed the opening of mines and will hasten the closure of many coal-burning power plants, as well as reduce coal jobs.
So, while dialogue with the new EPA chief is an improvement, it's far from clear whether the Obama administration cares enough about West Virginians to let their concerns affect policy.