EPA putting the brakes on coal

Almost two years ago, Barack Obama told the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle that anyone who wanted to open a new coal-burning electrical plant would get “bankrupted” by his policies.  They may not even get the coal to burn, thanks to the EPA.  The Washington Times’ Amanda Carpenter reports that the agency has held up scores of surface mining permits in an action that will get the attention of coal-producing states — and their Senators:

While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama said his cap-and-trade tax plans would “bankrupt” anyone building a coal-fired power plant. Although those taxes haven’t materialized, the Environmental Protection Agency has put the brakes on 79 surface mining permits in four states since he was elected.

The EPA says these permits could violate the Clean Water Act and warrant “enhanced” review. But the agency went even further last week, announcing plans to revoke a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia – a move that has caused anxiety among coal-state Democrats about the future of the industry under the Obama administration. …

Although his favored cap-and-trade bill hasn’t yet been passed, West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin III, who supported Mr. Obama’s candidacy, called the EPA moves part of a stealth campaign to stifle the industry.

“Right now, my belief is that they’re trying to kill off surface mining through regulation what they cannot get done through legislation,” Mr. Manchin told MetroNews Talkline, a West Virginia call-in radio program, earlier this month. In West Virginia, 23 permits are being held up, with other affected states being Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Speaking of Senators, West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller is none too pleased at this action, either:

“I am angry with the EPA’s announcement that they will use veto power to revoke the authorized Spruce Mine permit in Logan,” he said. “It is wrong and unfair for the EPA to change the rules for a permit that is already active.”

To get cap-and-trade past a cloture vote, Obama will need Rockefeller and fellow WV Democrat Robert Byrd.  That’s not likely as long as the EPA attempts to hamstring the coal industry through heavy-handed regulatory encroachment.  But cloture isn’t the real problem.  Coal states have elected a number of Democrats, from Indiana to Ohio to Pennsylvania to West Virginia, none of whom will get re-elected if they kneecap their states’ economies by allowing the Obama administration to bankrupt the coal industry — especially through EPA overreach.

ObamaCare has its difficulties with moderate Democrats, but this creates another layer of difficulty for the White House.  ObamaCare would probably pass narrowly in the Senate if it could get past a cloture vote, which is why Harry Reid has threatened reconciliation to avoid the procedural hurdle.  Cap-and-trade may wind up not having 50 votes in the Senate, thanks to the EPA and the economy-killing approach the Obama administration is taking on coal.

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