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West Virginia Seeks "Reset" on Coal With EPA

PHOTO:  West Virginia political and coal industry leaders are hoping for a "reset" on environmental policies after meeting with the EPA's new administrator.
PHOTO: West Virginia political and coal industry leaders are hoping for a "reset" on environmental policies after meeting with the EPA's new administrator.
August 2, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was briefed Thursday by a West Virginia delegation about the impact the agency's new policies could have on the state's coal industry.

The Obama administration is moving to limit carbon emissions from new power plants. Politicians and industry leaders who attended the 45-minute meeting said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy was receptive to their concerns.

"And, I really think that we are going to have the opportunity to hit the reset button and begin a dialogue that hopefully encourages coal to be a part of the president's energy plan going forward," said Tim Miley, the Democratic speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

West Virginia is the third-largest energy producing state.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also attended the meeting. He maintains the EPA's policies are overzealous and have led to the closing of coalmines and power plants.

But environmental groups back the direction the EPA is heading.

"We've never been entirely satisfied with the EPA,” said John McFerrin, secretary of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “But we're more satisfied now than at some times in the past. And, they certainly do not need to be reined in."

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia called the meeting a very respectful, direct and productive discussion about how the EPA’s policies have hurt the coal industry.

"If anything just trying to prohibit the use of the product we're depending on,” he said. “That makes no sense whatsoever. And, I told them that the war on coal is not an optical illusion, it was real."

Manchin said the delegation invited McCarthy, who is in her first week as administrator of the EPA, to come to West Virginia to see first hand the impact of the agency's decisions.

McFerrin disagrees with how Manchin characterizes the situation.

“By any meaningful definition, it isn't a war on coal," he said. "The proper way to look at it is, the dealings and industry that has gotten to do whatever it pleased for the last, oh, forever and if not getting to do everything that you want to do is your definition of war, then I suppose it is."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - WV