Do West Virginia's congressional representatives even listen to themselves when they spout their "war on coal" nonsense?
"This administration is doing everything it can to destroy the coal industry," says Rep. Shelley Moore-Capito.
Rep. Nick Rahall warns darkly that because an appeals court upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's longstanding authority to veto permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency may "go after" non-coal businesses now.
When told the EPA had exercised its authority only 13 times in four decades, and only three times after a permit had been issued, Rahall said, "It doesn't matter, in my opinion."
Facts clearly don't matter to West Virginia's representatives, especially when it comes to President Obama, the EPA and coal.
This authority, which the EPA used to overrule the corps' decision to issue a permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine (the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia history), was written into Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.
Despite the ongoing hysteria from the coal industry and its political representatives since EPA issued the veto in January 2011, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had no trouble finding that Congress used "unambiguous" language to give EPA a "broad veto power" for these permits.
Having the EPA serve as an overseer for the corps' 404 permitting makes perfect sense. The corps' main focus has never been about environmental protection, which is the EPA's main job. Unfortunately, the EPA has, until recently, done very poorly in that role. Even now, it could be doing more to protect citizens of Appalachia from the environmental and public health impacts of mountaintop removal mining.