TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

May 3, 2013

Kentucky to the EPA: ‘Man up’ or shut up

CORBIN — During recent stops in Pikeville and Hazard, Sen. Mitch McConnell took aim at the Environmental Protection Agency’s rope-a-dope policy that Kentucky’s senior senator rightly describes as an “illegitimate” and “back-door means” to permanently destroy eastern Kentucky’s economic lifeline, which - like 93 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity - is powered by coal.

The EPA’s policies have resulted in more than 40 applications for new coal mines – and thousands of jobs they would create – lingering in regulatory purgatory.

McConnell warned miners, operators, owners and suppliers at Whayne Supply in Pikeville that the EPA is “trivializing your livelihood and our economy to pursue their radical agenda.”

It’s time to push back, he said, while announcing legislation that gives the EPA 270 days to either approve or deny applications for permits that deal with potential runoff from proposed mines, and 90 days to begin the approval process for permits that allow clearing of soil in order to reach coal in the ground. It also gives the feds up to a year to assess environmental impacts of proposed mines.

Applications not acted upon by the deadline would be automatically approved.

McConnell acknowledged that while the reasonable, but expedited, permitting process created by his bill might result in some permits being denied, it’s better than remaining in limbo.

When permits are “left hanging in purgatory,” it affects applicants’ investment decisions and ability to move forward, he said.

But radical environmentalists and their enablers seem to neither care nor – perhaps worse – understand the need for a reasonable regulatory atmosphere that offers more certainty.  

The threat posed by over-regulation – whether it involves food supplies, health-care policies or Appalachian coal – often is not cost so much as the uncertainty caused by changing rules in the middle of the game.

Certainty encourages new businesses to start and existing ones to expand. Uncertainty puts economic growth on hold.

Tom Fitzgerald, an environmental attorney who heads the Kentucky Resources Council, tried to sell an Associated Press reporter on the notion that the “firm timeframes” in McConnell’s bill “are not realistic,” and could result in unintended consequences that cause more harm to the coal industry than it already has suffered.  

—Dozens of permit applications have been awaiting action by the environmental emperors at the EPA since as far back as 2008.

—Permits have been retroactively denied after being approved to move forward.

—The rules of the regulatory game are frequently and arbitrarily changed in the middle of play.

—We have seen 100 of the nation’s 500 coal-fired power plants closed during the past four years.

—Nearly 4,000 miners in eastern Kentucky, or 30 percent of the industry’s workforce, have lost their jobs.

—Coal production is down 28 percent in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

—Market conditions have worsened.

—The past two winters have been mild, reducing energy demand even further.

Yet Fitzgerald actually claims that forcing quicker actions on permits will further harm this amazingly resilient industry?

Fitzgerald warns that imposing such deadlines might “trigger a negative response from the agency where, otherwise, an agency may work with an applicant.”

But this is where Fitzgerald shows his utter lack of understanding concerning the havoc created by the EPA’s regulatory regimen. He probably would be surprised to know that it’s actually better for the mining industry if permits are denied within a reasonable time frame rather than allowed to languish.

Of course, a pattern of “no” decisions will cause a fact to surface about the EPA that naïve citizens might not know: the agency has a harmful bias against Kentucky coal miners.

Still, McConnell challenged the EPA: “Be man enough to say ‘no.’”

That’s easier said than done for a regulatory beast that growls green but whimpers yellow.

Jim Waters is acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • LIKE IT OR NOT: MLB's All Star effort was a bust

    With the 85th edition of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in the books, I have to say I feel like the whole thing was a complete bust.

    July 18, 2014

  • THE WAY IT IS: Some local teams can make a run

    Well folks, our Little League All-Star action is beginning to wind down, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see two of the Tri-County’s resp

    July 17, 2014

  • LIKE IT OR NOT: It's been a very busy summer

    While a lot of people would expect the local sports scene to slow down in the Tri-County in the summer time, that’s not usually the case for us here at the Times-Tribune.

    July 16, 2014

  • John Ross.jpg May we all cherish those few WWII vets who still live

    I watch this old BBC program pretty often called “Are You Being Served?” It’s mostly out of syndication — what shows remain can be seen most often through PBS.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0502 Bobbie Poynter So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

    I never have been very good at saying goodbye — family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community — for years you’ve had my back and in turn, I believe I’ve had yours.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie Ellis.jpg ‘Uh hummm!’ It’s been an interesting week

    One column can’t cover everything from a busy week of political events, but here are some quick takeaways from last week.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Let’s multiply our numbers like fleas do

    Last Saturday, my wife, Carmen, and I spent the day at the Kings Island theme park near Cincinnati, Ohio.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Not an earthly trace

    Just married (1897) and in his late 20’s, my grandfather was determined to make a living on a hillside farm covered in wilderness; much as his father had done before him in 1846  when he arrived from Germany.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brad Hall.jpg Col. Mustard with the candlestick in Heaven

    One of my favorite movies is the murder mystery comedy “Clue,” which is based on the popular board game of the same name.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Burkhart.jpg Now or Never

    A story is told of an old widower who decided it was time to find a new wife. He chose to look for this new bride through the obituaries column; identifying new widows.

    June 30, 2014 1 Photo