Yesterday Senator McConnell and Rand introduced the “Coal Jobs Protection Act” in response to a number of regulatory actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rep. Capito introduced a companion bill in the House this afternoon as well. The focus of the McConnell bill is jobs and to slow the EPA’s efforts to regulate coal usage out of our energy mix.

The coal industry in Kentucky directly employs 14,000 workers and accounts for an additional 52,000 workers indirectly.  Over the last several years both coal production and employment have dropped significantly in the Bluegrass State. Coal production is down almost 28 percent and over 4,000 coal miners have lost their jobs.

Too often the EPA has dragged its feet on approving various water permits ranging for 402 to 404 by delaying action on these permits that are needed to begin work on coal related projects. EPA’s own web site they list almost 40 402 (national pollutant discharge elimination into navigable waters) permits that have been waiting for action since 2008. This legislation would require EPA to provide 402 applicants a yes or no within 270 days of the application.

It would also require EPA to begin the authorizations process on 404 permits (fill and dredge permits) within 90 days of receiving the application. EPA’s slow walking these permits costs communities, businesses and workers thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefit in addition to millions of dollars in lost coal severance money that would have gone to the state and local communities.

The McConnell bill gives states a stronger role and a greater say in how these permits and bodies of waters are regulated and administered. This legislation is in response to concerns expressed by the manufacturers, farmers, realtors, transportation and construction industry workers, home builders, municipalities who are concerned with the efforts of the EPA to expand its authority and slow down the permit process.

The EPA continues to ignore the economic impact of their actions and seemly is so focused on the elimination of the use of coal that they have lost their way and failed to understand the limits of their authority. We need the EPA to function as it was intended and to work with states and businesses to issue permits in a timely manner and hold businesses accountable. We need less uncertainty in the permitting process not more. Uncertainty kills economic growth and makes business decisions more risky than then need to be.

Chip Yost is assistant vice president of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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