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Op-Ed: Alex X. Mooney – Preempting anti-coal action from Obama administration

Charleston Daily Mail

Alex X. Mooney: Preempting anti-coal action from Obama administration

Entering the last two years of his administration, President Obama is looking to use extreme new regulations to ratchet up the War on Coal.

The President and his radical environmentalist allies are intent on destroying coal as a domestic energy source and believe their final push will accomplish that mission. I am taking action in Congress to stop this.

On March 17, President Obama’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) sent its proposed rewrite of the stream buffer zone rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

This new rule essentially allows a federal agency to redefine what constitutes a stream. This dubious premise allows federal regulators to circumvent any oversight in seizing new area to regulate.

This massive regulatory rewrite has occurred largely in secret, without any meaningful communication with state leaders or regional regulators who will ultimately be responsible for adopting and implementing these new federal standards.

OSM recently received a letter from 11 states, including West Virginia, protesting OSM’s lack of communication with the states since 2011.

State leaders are right to push for the veil to be lifted on this new regulatory drive. It is the hardworking taxpayers of coal-reliant states who will be the most affected by OSM’s action. The economies of the Appalachian region, and West Virginia in particular, are uniquely threatened by these regulations because of our mountainous topography and abundance of small streams. Industry estimates say this administrative action could mean 45 to 79 percent of the coal reserves in Appalachia would no longer be recoverable.

According to the National Mining Association, the Appalachian Region could lose as many as 220,000 coal-linked jobs. The damage from such a critical blow to the industry would create a ripple of hardship in our state. Over 90 percent of energy consumed in West Virginia is produced by coal power; distress in the coal industry will raise home energy prices and business energy costs.

Approximately 60 percent of West Virginia state business tax is derived from coal revenues. A significant decrease in these revenues would put severe financial strain on the state budget.

The administration’s own preliminary analysis of the rule pointed to the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs. In 2011, OSM fired third-party contractors because they refused the agency’s command to falsify job loss numbers.

Yet, just this month at a congressional hearing before the Natural Resources Committee, of which I am a member, OSM Director Joseph Pizarchik told us that the rule “would probably be a wash” when it comes to coal employment.

That is a stunning affront to reality and the product of overzealous regulators feeling invulnerable with an anti-coal President behind them.

For an Administration that earnestly promised “transparency” in government, this is just the latest in a series of behind closed doors moves aimed at throttling the coal industry.

In June 2013, the New York Times documented the back room dealings between the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental activists at the Natural Resources Defense Council in developing regulations on carbon dioxide.

The Obama Administration has excluded expert input that wouldn’t support the administration’s regulatory approach which is being driven by a political agenda.

In order to preempt the President from pursuing this new front in the War on Coal, I officially introduced the ‘STREAM Act’ on Thursday March 26. My bill is designed to eliminate burdensome regulatory duplication, clarify that OSM cannot pursue policies to regulate coal mining out of business, and run out the clock on implementation of any new rules until a new pro-energy administration takes office.

The bill follows up on my successful work to include provisions in the Budget of the House of Representatives, which defund implementation of any new stream buffer zone rule from OSM.

In the face of an extreme administration operating behind closed doors, it is essential we stay vigilant and take the offensive to prevent new fronts in the War on Coal. With strong, united leadership, we can stop this administration from shuttering thousands of jobs in our state and threatening our way of life.

West Virginia and the nation as a whole are blessed with abundant energy resources which fuel our economy, support our states, and provide affordable home-energy for hardworking families.

I am proud to be successfully leading the fight against an administration which would deny our citizens the freedom to seek prosperity from this natural bounty.

Republican Alex Mooney is West Virginia’s 2nd District Congressman.