The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to get entangled in a feud with the mining industry in Appalachia.
The latest news out of the region is that the EPA is opposing water discharge permits for 11 Kentucky coal mines. The Louisville Courier Journal reports that this is the “first time such an action has been taken in 20 years.” The same report says this could lead to the federal government claiming more power over the state’s permitting process. This is something Bruce Scott, the Kentucky commissioner for Environmental Protection, described as frustrating.
“The states would like to know, Where is this going? The worst-case scenario is that the EPA objects to every permit and they become the permitting authority for all coal mining,” Scott said in the report. He went on, "absent a change of course, that seems to be where this train wreck is going.”
Before the Kentucky permit rejections, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin filed suit against the EPA for its regulation of his state’s mining industry. The lawsuit has aligned Manchin with Massey Energy's Don Blankenship. Mother Jones has labeled the race between Manchin and Republican opponent John Raese as a contest for “who can love coal more.”
All of this is happening after the New York Times reported about a Republican campaign blitz in the region, where the party is trying to paint the federal government and the EPA in particular as anti-industry and anti-mining. The political fallout from this situation will be interesting to watch as both West Virginia and Kentucky are hosting close U.S. Senate races. As for the regulatory fallout, that may take longer to play out as it will likely be decided in the courtroom.