But Rahall and Capito would rather have the EPA do less. They've supported legislation to strip EPA of its authority to veto 404 permits after the permits have been issued by the corps.
This would be a fundamental, and unwise, change to the Clean Water Act. The corps has repeatedly proven it needs the oversight provided by the EPA. In fact, had the corps listened to EPA's repeated objections and made modifications to the Spruce permit, the veto might never have happened.
It's absurd that our congressional representatives are creating such uproar over a provision that's been in the Clean Water Act since it was written, and has been used sparingly and responsibly for the last 40 years. But the first time EPA uses it on a permit for a coal mine, our elected officials lose their heads.
The notion that the EPA is intentionally destroying jobs, whether in the coal industry or any other, is incredibly silly. In fact, under President Obama, coal employment has been consistently higher than it was under President Bush.
Certainly, the industry faces dire threats to its long-term future, especially in central Appalachia where most of the good seams have been mined out while natural gas has become far more competitive.
That would be a poor excuse to ignore or weaken laws meant to protect the people of this region both now and after coal is gone. It would, however, be a great reason to start putting serious effort into developing a plan for developing a state and regional economy that can survive, and even thrive, during and after coal's inevitable decline.
Senators and representatives ought to be doing something about that, rather than trying to further weaken Clean Water Act regulations and the EPA.
Radmacher is communications director for Appalachian Mountain Advocates, appalmad.org.