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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va.., joined with House Republicans Thursday in a committee hearing orchestrated to highlight coal industry opposition to the Obama administration's crackdown on strip-mining pollution.
In the first of a two-part hearing, lawmakers heard from two industry officials and two state regulators who think the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's tougher permit reviews and new water quality guidance have gone too far.
"The deliberative and disruptive policies that have closed and stopped coal mines from receiving permits to open or expand have consequences that reverberate throughout the region," National Mining Association President Hal Quinn told a House subcommittee. "The consequences begin with the coal supply chain and spread to those who benefit from low-cost coal energy."
Quinn's group is challenging EPA's crackdown in court, as are several coal-mining states, including West Virginia. Environmental groups have joined the suits on EPA's side.
Industry officials say the EPA's moves have slowed the issuance of new mining permits to a trickle, though several major permits have been approved with lessened stream impacts after EPA reviews.
Michael Gardner, general counsel of Ohio-based Oxford Resource Partners, told lawmakers that EPA permit reviews have hampered his company's efforts to get new permits and expand mining operations.
But Gardner's prepared testimony indicated that EPA did more detailed reviews of only four of the nine permits Oxford had pending when the Obama crackdown began.