PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) -- With concern over coal miners losing their jobs in droves, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., unveiled a plan Monday morning that he said will reduce over regulation of the coal industry and bring mining jobs back to Kentucky and surrounding states.
"I've pushed back against this [Obama] administration since day one on its attempts to regulate America's coal industry and coal mining jobs, literally, out of existence," McConnell said.
That regulation, McConnell said, is costing the state coal severance money – and costing miners their jobs. In response, he and fellow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., are introducing legislation in the Senate called the Coal Jobs Protection Act. Its main aim is to simplify the process of getting mining permits from the Environmental Protection Agency.
McConnell introduced the plan in Pikeville Monday morning at Whayne Supply, a company that builds mining equipment. One of the technicians there, William Bogar, said he and many others in the area depend heavily on coal as the basis of the local economy.
“If coal goes, we've not got nothing here,” Bogar said.
Later, in Hazard, McConnell was joined by U. S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to pitch her version of the plan, which she plans to bring to the House of Representatives.
“A strategic barrage, literal barrage of regulations from the EPA is strangling one of our state's most important industries, the coal industry,” McConnell said to the crowd gathered in Pikeville. He added, “The EPA is changing the rules in the middle of the game, and they’ve done it all without a single vote from Congress.”
He proposed putting time limits on how long the EPA has to approve or veto mining permits -- anywhere from 90 to 270 days, depending on the type of permit requested. If the EPA fails to act in that time frame, the permit would be automatically approved. He said this will speed up the process and bring jobs back for miners.
Bogar said he supports any coal legislation McConnell brings forward because he knows too many people who have lost their jobs.
“Right now we got too many brothers and sisters out there that's coal miners that's out of work. We need to go back to work,” Bogar said.
The difficult part could be getting McConnell’s bill through the Senate, which is controlled by the Democratic party.
This comes on the heels of last week’s decision by a federal appeals court. The court ruled that, by turning down permits for a coal mine in West Virginia, the EPA had not overstepped its authority as a federal judge had ruled earlier.