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Choosing Jobs over the Environment: WV Politicians Want to Stop EPA Regulations for Cleaner Air

Coal is big business in West Virginia. The money from the industry keeps many families in the mountain state afloat each month and is the anchor of a struggling economy.

Now one West Virginia Democrat is proposing that the best way to handle the coal industry and keep jobs in the state is by removing all regulations that may interfere with their profits and let them spew as much pollution as they want into the air.

On Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV)  introduced the Protection and Accountability Regulatory Act of 2014 in an effort to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of coal plants, modified coal plants and reconstructed coal plants and the amount of polluting carbon they release into the atmosphere.

“The EPA needs to get their head out of the clouds and come back down to Earth where the rest of us must live and work,” Rahall said in a statement advocating for the EPA to ‘mind their own’.  “We don’t need more regulation to solve our energy challenges—we need more innovation.”

Aligning himself mostly with House Republicans, Rahall joined with fellow West Virginia representative David McKinley (D-WV) to co-sponsor the measure, which is meant as an answer to Obama’s new rules aimed a capping carbon emissions in power plants by 2030.

The new EPA rules, which could damage the already suffering West Virginia coal industry, caused a strong reaction in Rahall’s and McKinley’s state – home of softer and more polluting bituminous coal -, even prompting the West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to threaten to sue the EPA if they did not rescind the restriction on carbon emissions.

“As the chief legal office for the State of West Virginia, I respectfully request that you withdraw the Proposed Rule immediately because EPA lacks the legal authority to adopt that Rule,” Morrisey wrote in his nine-page letter.“I urge you to withdraw the proposed rule immediately and avoid needless litigation.”

He also stated that he cannot allow the EPA to “blatantly violate the law in order to achieve its policy goals.”

Yet while the environment would be the real losers if Rahall and McKinley’s bill was passed, in an impoverished state like West Virginia the  politicians’ rationale is less about long-term environmental goals and global warming and more about making sure the state does not lose more jobs, especially ones considered well-paid by WV standards.

“The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others,” United Mine Worker’s International President Cecil Roberts said, stressing the sentiment of many in the state who are willing to do anything – even pollute the environment – just to keep jobs around.

Photo Credit: Cathy (WV Coal Powered Plant)

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • Julia Singleton

    First of all, thanks for reporting real news. This is a sticky one isn’t it? Environmental justice or economic justice?