CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The head of the West Virginia Coal Association said the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson is good news for West Virginia.
Bill Raney, the president of the trade association that represents the majority of the state's underground and surface coal production, said Jackson is to blame for coal's decline in Appalachia.
"There's been a lot of criticism directly to her specifically in court decisions and Congress," Raney said. "They have criticized her policy regarding coal. You've got to conclude ... that sitting in that leadership position had something to do with framing that policy."
Jackson, the EPA's first black administrator, announced her intentions to leave following President Obama's State of the Union speech in January.
Her four-year tenure was marked by high-profile debates over global warming pollution, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and other issues that affect the national economy and peoples' health.
She constantly found herself between administration pledges to solve controversial environmental problems and resistance from Republicans and industrial groups that complained that EPA rules destroyed jobs and made it difficult for American companies to compete globally.
The EPA, with Jackson at the helm, is particularly unpopular in Appalachia's coal country, where politicians and industry representatives call the agency's policies a "war on coal."
But many experts have told the Gazette that the impact of the EPA's regulatory changes is overblown. Other factors continue to impact coal production in Central Appalachia, they say. Thinner and lower-quality coal seams are left, which means that production is dropping. Competition from inexpensive natural gas and other coal basins in Western states also negatively affect the state's coal industry.
While he believes that Jackson's departure will be good for the state, Raney said the West Virginia Coal Association is concerned with whether the EPA's next chief will be "someone with a much greater appreciation for coal mining."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also expressed concern for Jackson's replacement.