In the wake of a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to subject 79 coal mining permit applications – twenty-three of which are in West Virginia – to further review, Speaker of the House Rick Thompson called on the EPA to speed up its permitting process and to work with coal operators to help them to comply with the Clean Water Act.

“It’s my understanding,” Thompson said, “that at least one of these permits has been under review for 10 years and will now be subject to even further study to determine if the project can go forward. I know that the EPA has an important job to do – but there’s an old and respected principal of law that states ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ These coal companies – and the thousands of employees who work for them – deserve a process that is measured in days rather than decades and standards that all sides can follow and understand.”

Speaker Thompson praised Governor Joe Manchin’s leadership on this issues saying, “I support Governor Manchin’s efforts to get this process moving and to obtain clear-cut direction from the EPA. That is the right and fair thing to do.”

“The uncertainty and ambiguity that these companies are forced to contend with through the regulatory process are difficult in the best of times – but are simply unjustifiable and untenable in the midst of the worst economic recession we’ve experienced since the great depression” added Thompson. “We’re not saying that there should be no standards – we’re saying that the standards should be clear, unambiguous and attainable,” said Thompson.

“We all want, deserve and expect clean drinking water and a clean environment” said Speaker Thompson, “but we also want, deserve and expect the light, warmth and power provided by West Virginia coal. Energy and electricity are not luxuries – they’re a necessity. West Virginia coal companies and their hard working employees deserve a permitting process that operates more swiftly and less capriciously.”

Chris Hamilton and Michael Carey warn that pending federal "cap-and-trade" legislation and increased U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervention will cripple the coal industry.

Hamilton, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, and Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, brought their concerns to Wheeling Tuesday during a Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Business/Coal Forum Luncheon at WesBanco Arena, where Wheeling Mayor Andy Mckenzie and chamber President Terry Sterling welcomed attendees. Hamilton focused much of his attention on what he called "the EPA's assault on coal and war on mountaintop mining."