As Ed already reported this week, the Obama administration has taken belated notice of the fact that coal still provides a lot of the nation’s energy, (and jobs!) and is attempting to recalculate their political playbook accordingly. Not everyone seems to have gotten the memo, though, including one Jay Rockefeller. There is currently an amendment to the transportation bill on the table, put forward by David McKinley, which would stop the EPA from regulating coal ash as a “hazardous substance.” But even though the senator comes from coal country himself, he can’t seem to get on board.
“I’m going to keep working on coal ash reuse, but I’m not going to pretend to West Virginians that it’s ready or right for the highway bill,” Rockefeller noted. “We need roads and bridges and the jobs that go with them in our state, not political games. House Republicans want to cut transportation funding more deeply than ever before, and they should stop trying to distract West Virginians from the harm of their real agenda.”
On April 18, the House voted to extend federal transportation funding through September. The measure passed on to the Senate included McKinley’s coal ash amendment, as well as another provision permitting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.
If Rockefeller were basing his opposition solely on the position that we wind up with extraneous amendments to bills all the time which gum up the process, I could almost get behind him here. But the idea that the EPA amendment is cluttering up the legislation with unrelated nonsense simply doesn’t hold water. Coal ash is one of many additives which are used in paving applications and it helps hold down the cost of road construction work. (The industry manages an amazing program of recycling everything from old asphalt pavement to ground up tires.) Arguing that this is not applicable to the transportation bill is unfounded.
So where is Rockefeller getting these peculiar ideas? Perhaps from an unlikely source.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller is being called on by the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club in its fight to kill another West Virginia representative’s coal ash provision of the transportation bill…
Rockefeller, a Democratic member of the conference committee appointed to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the transportation bill, said he would not support the amendment.
“Separately, I want to make it clear that I cannot support the environmental provisions that have been attached to the surface bill by the House,” Rockefeller said in a statement issued last week. “These riders would jeopardize the tremendous bipartisan support this bill has had so far in the Senate.”
For somebody who has been knocking around W. Virginia politics for so long, choosing to go against coal and in favor of the Sierra Club is an odd choice to say the least. And given the area’s unemployment rate and dependence on the industry in question, you’d think this would have been a no brainer for the Senator. Live and learn, I suppose.