EPA chief faces tough questions at budget hearing

March 24, 2016

Lawmakers from West Virginia, Kentucky and Utah used a hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget to unload their frustrations on the agency chief.

The Hill reported that aAppropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KA) joined Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) in complaining about how EPA policies are hurting their coal-country constituents, while Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) focused on the massive mine waste spill the agency caused in Colorado last year.

“There are over 10,000 miners in my district who found themselves unemployed as a result of our ‘keep it in the ground’ strategy when it comes to coal. This committee has acted time and again to protect the mining industry, and the hard-working people that they employ, from the devastating impact of the actions of your agency,” Rogers told the EPA’s Gina McCarthy at the hearing of a subcommittee of his panel.

“Here you are, asking for more taxpayer money to put toward this job of killing coal,” he said, pointing to a requested $50 million budget increase to implement the Clean Power Plan, which is on hold thanks to a Supreme Court decision.

McCarthy defended the regulation limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

“We are not looking to preclude coal from being part of the energy system, and indeed, we project that it will continue to be,” she said. “But we do believe that facilities can comply, and we think that states will be able to meet the requirements under the Clean Power Plan.”

Jenkins used his questioning time for a six-minute prepared speech about the decline of coal-dependent communities, which he blames on the EPA.

“For almost eight years, the administration has unapologetically and systematically worked to shut down our country’s most abundant, reliable and cheapest form of energy: coal. What this administration and EPA doesn’t understand is what their actions have done to the people of West Virginia,” he said.

Jenkins outlined the problems he attributes to President Obama’s environmental regulations.

“Coal jobs provide a true, living wage to support a family. Coal jobs also come with really good benefits, a pension and the healthcare benefits a retiree can count on,” he said. “But not anymore. The bankruptcies of our country’s largest coal companies have left pensioners and widows desperate for help. And because of your actions, West Virginia now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire country.”

“Despite our best efforts, you have succeeded in wrecking our economy and ruining the lives and livelihoods of thousands of our citizens,” he said. “Regardless of one’s belief in the president’s climate change agenda, his drive, your drive, to succeed has been devastating to the people of West Virginia, and to the tens of thousands of others across the country who worked to fuel this nation.”

Stewart asked McCarthy if anyone had been punished for the spill at Gold King Mine, which sent 3 million gallons of toxic heavy metals into nearby streams.

“It was a mistake,” she said. “Have I found anyone that didn’t act responsibility and that should have know better? So far, the independent analysis that we’re seeing has not identified negligence, but we’re still continuing to look at that issue and would welcome anyone else doing that as well.”


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