February 04, 2011

Manchin Addresses West Virginia Coal Association Symposium

Charleston, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin today addressed the annual West Virginia Coal Association Symposium, drawing applause from the crowd as he discussed his first piece of legislation, the “EPA Fair Play Act of 2011.”

“I believe it is absolutely wrong – the unbridled power that these agencies have. Or, the power they are exercising because they think they have it,” Senator Manchin said. “It’s wrong not just for West Virginia, it’s wrong for America.”

Senator Manchin yesterday introduced the “EPA Fair Play Act,” which would prevent the agency from changing its rules on businesses after permits have already been granted, as they did with Southern West Virginia’s Spruce Mine.

During today’s address, Senator Manchin said that, as the Senator from a leading energy state in the nation, he is proud to have been named to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He stressed his commitment to fighting for a balanced energy policy that includes a significant role for coal and West Virginia’s other important resources.

“Why wouldn’t we use everything that we have?” Senator Manchin said. “I am going to help us all work together. I have put energy independence at the forefront of what I believe this nation needs to do to be more secure and less dependent.”

Senator Manchin also emphasized his commitment to a balanced energy policy yesterday during his maiden speech on the Senate floor, when he outlined a 4-point, commonsense agenda to create jobs, restore fiscal responsibility, develop a balanced energy policy that establishes energy independence within this generation, and keep our promises to seniors and veterans.

Background on legislation:

The permit for the Spruce Mine was approved after an exhaustive, approximately 10-year regulatory process that included extensive review by the EPA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the Section 404(c) permit, which is a requirement for constructing clean valley fills, a process used in surface coal mining. The EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Section 404(c) permits before they are awarded by the U.S. Army Corps.  However, the EPA has never before attempted to veto a previously awarded and active permit.

Arch Coal was poised to invest $250 million dollars in the Spruce Mine project, which was already employing West Virginians and would have created approximately 200 good-paying jobs with benefits. The EPA’s decision to retroactively veto the permit casts serious doubt on the future of this project and others throughout the country.

Senator Manchin has already gained bipartisan support for his legislation, including original cosponsors Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).