MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Jared Hunt
Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
Jan. 21--CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Hundreds of West Virginia coal miners joined political leaders under the state Capitol Rotunda Thursday to voice opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for what they believe is federal intervention in their very way of life.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin organized the rally last week following the EPA's retroactive veto of a water permit for Arch Coal's Spruce No. 1 mine, a 2,300-acre operation in Logan County.
West Virginia's political leaders sharply criticized the EPA last week for what they viewed as an abuse of that agency's power that negatively impacts the state's economy.
During the hour-long rally, members from both parties, including Tomblin, acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, House Speaker Rick Thompson, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin joined industry and labor leaders, miners and their families in again blasting the EPA's decision.
"We are here today because of what we know to be a drastic and unfair action by the EPA," Tomblin said. "This act is an outright infraction on coal miners, on the state of West Virginia, and yes, even our own communities."
"Left unchecked, this will likely have a ripple effect that will stifle the coal mining industry in our state," Thompson, D-Wayne, said.
"West Virginia coal miners are ready, willing and able to play by the rules -- we just need to know what they are."
Kessler, D-Marshall, said the state Senate unanimously passed a resolution Thursday morning formally asking the EPA to reconsider its decision.
"Mining in West Virginia can be done in a safe, effective, environmentally protective and profitable manner in this state and it will," he said.
"Momma said when you give something, you don't take it away."
Hall, R-Putnam, told members of the crowd they need to focus their attention on getting President Barack Obama to do something to reform the EPA.
"He's the one who put these people in their places," Hall said.
To Obama, he would say, "If you like us, help us and don't have this radical environmental philosophy affect West Virginia.
"This could be fixed if he'd do something, and I wish he would."
Armstead, R-Kanawha, said the nation was built on energy derived from West Virginia coal, and now the federal government is turning its back on that energy.
"What's shameful is that instead of helping us to create jobs and develop clean coal technology, they want us to hold our heads in shame, and that's just wrong."
Manchin, D-W.Va., announced earlier Thursday that he would introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate that would permanently prevent any federal agency from retroactively reconsidering permitting decisions.
He said he's reaching out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle, saying the actions by the EPA could portend future decisions that might negatively affect the economies in other states.
"This might be happening to me today," Manchin said of his pitch to fellow leaders, "but if you don't rise up and join with us, then it'll happen to you tomorrow."
He said the EPA's attitude was the opposite of how the government should be working.
"A government basically should be reaching out and saying, 'How can I help you?' "