West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection helped bring that legal challenge. It has sharply criticized EPA's actions in the state, a view shared by other Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Raney traces EPA's objection-raising behavior to the day Obama took office in January 2009.
"They're just bullying the state, they're bullying the companies," Raney said. "The reason that we spend so much time talking about EPA is because with these guys (in the industry), it is with them every day."
Raney also cited the industry's championing of the new Longview Power plant as evidence of its focus on the future. The state-of-the-art Morgantown facility is West Virginia's first coal-fired plant in 18 years. The industry also recognizes the "perfect storm" of market forces at play, Raney said, but he argues that EPA is worsening that tough climate by increasing the costs of mining and using coal.
Rockefeller said federal court rulings also explain EPA's actions. Those include a 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Burning coal and other fossil fuels releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for climate change.
"You don't stop coal. Coal is necessary," Rockefeller said. "But you can't talk about coal mining without discussing health, or anything that deals with emissions."
Rockefeller recently reintroduced a wide-ranging safety measure that responds to the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which killed 29 miners. It includes greater whistleblower protections, harsher penalties for criminal safety violations and a revamped system for declaring a pattern of violations at a mine with chronic safety problems.
That bill also calls for a stricter limit on breathable coal dust, and a revisiting of that standard every five years. This dust causes black lung, an irreversible disease that has contributed to the deaths of more than 70,000 miners since 1970. MSHA's investigation found that at least 17 of the miners killed at Upper Big Branch -- nearly two-thirds of those whose remains had enough lung tissue for testing -- had signs of black lung.
"All of the sudden you're seeing this huge uptick in black lung, particularly among young miners," Rockefeller said. "You have to get respirable dust at a much lower level."