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.