The EPA permitting halt will hit West Virginia and Kentucky especially hard.

From the State Journal by Dan Page

The minority staff of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee produced a report last month that says in plain English what many people in Appalachia believe:

"Our investigation found that the Obama Administration is using the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process to dismantle the coal industry in the Appalachian region."

A government report cannot be clearer. It said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, by bringing the issuing of Clean Water Act 404 permits to a virtual halt, is signing the death certificate for a significant portion of the Appalachian coal industry. Coal companies must have water quality permits to operate both surface and deep mines. The May 21 report said the agency is holding up 190 permits.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., serves as ranking member of the committee, and his staff produced the report, "The Obama Administration's Obstruction of Coal Mining Permits in Appalachia."

The report arrived at a time when the EPA is poised to declare carbon dioxide -- a byproduct from the combustion of coal -- a dangerous pollutant. The Senate was expected to vote June 10 on a proposal from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to deny EPA the power to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski and other senators, including some Democrats, believe the EPA has gone too far, causing economic harm.

Sound familiar?

While the EPA attacks carbon and the coal industry in the air, it also has attacked coal on the ground. Inhofe's committee report made the following findings regarding the EPA's stranglehold on water quality permits:

About one in four coal mining jobs in the Appalachian region will be at risk and 81 small businesses will lose significant income and risk bankruptcy. That's coming at a time of national and global economic stress.

The EPA's permitting halt will hit West Virginia and Kentucky especially hard. If the EPA continues to block the 404 permits, West Virginia stands to lose $217 million in tax revenue a year.

More than two years of America's coal supply will be in jeopardy.

Shutting down half of eastern coal production could lead to decreases in fuel supplies and increases in energy prices for many Americans.

The report said the EPA has tried to cast its slowdown in permitting as an effort to more carefully review the effects mountaintop mining has on water quality. But the report was critical of the way EPA has portrayed its conduct.

"For decades, the environmental community has politicized mountaintop mining by exaggerating its environmental impacts and stoking unfounded fear in mining communities," the report said. "Our investigation shows that the Administration is exploiting this fear as a means to block all coal mining operations in the Appalachian region."

Furthermore, the report said the EPA's statements about its review of mining permits "appear to address mountaintop mining only." But the report called those statements misleading. The report said the EPA, in blocking 190 coal mining permits in Appalachia, halted 19 mountaintop mining operations. The rest of the 171 blocked mining permits were for a range of surface, underground and refuse operations.

Mining companies acquired mineral rights and prepared their properties with the expectation, based on the law, that they could employ workers, recover coal, recover their investment and make a profit. But the EPA's anti-coal zeal has placed those investments at risk.

Congress should step in and demand that federal agencies provide the predictability that the law assures. If Congress backs down, then coal companies will have no choice but to go to court. The government clearly is trying to deprive private citizens of their property.