Charleston, West Virginia – Delegate Gary Howell (Mineral County – R) has reintroduced legislation that would grant the state government of West Virginia authority to permit coal mining, thereby removing the power from President Barack Obama’s heavily-regulated Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Under the proposed legislation, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP) would be the sole entity able to issue coal mining permits to companies that produce, sell, and use coal within the state borders of West Virginia. The WV DEP is currently responsible for assuring potential mines have met all state and federal regulations before recommending their permit approval to the EPA. This means the West Virginia agency is already forced to do the work, but does not have the final say in mining approval – an unnecessary oversight that would be remedied by this legislation.
“The federal government has overstepped its constitutional authority. They are costing West Virginia jobs, they are putting unnecessary hardships on West Virginians, and our founding fathers gave us the tools to run our state as we see fit,” Howell said. “As West Virginians with hundreds of years of coal mining roots, we understand the industry better than Washington bureaucrats and should be able to govern it accordingly.”
Howell’s argument that the federal government does not have the jurisdiction to regulate mining permits has received national recognition from well-known constitutional attorneys like Nick Dranias, Director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
“I think that [Delegate] Gary Howell is advancing precisely the kind of legislation that stands a chance of vindicating state sovereignty because it exerts powers traditionally recognized as within the powers reserved exclusively to the states,” said Dranias.
Howell continued to clarify this point.
“The bill states that if the coal is sold within the borders of West Virginia and never leaves the state — used within the borders — then no interstate commerce exists,” Howell said. “Since the EPA gets its jurisdiction from the interstate commerce clause [of the U.S. Constitution], then they have no authority to deny those permits under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves those rights to the state not enumerated in the Constitution.”
Also, there are no environmental costs to the legislation as permits issued by the WV DEP would be required to meet all EPA environmental standards.
The bill was originally introduced in 2011 and received support from the West Virginia Coal Association, as well as bipartisan backing from legislators across the state in response to the EPA’s repeated rejection of, or failure to act on several West Virginia mining permits. Many within the industry have deemed these actions by President Obama’s administration as detrimental to West Virginians and frankly as a “War on Coal.”
“Delegate Howell’s legislation presents a creative way of getting around the strangle-hold that the U.S. EPA has on new mining permits here in West Virginia which continues to plague West Virginia's economy and hard-working West Virginians who rely on the coal industry to support their families,” said West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton.