This op-ed from President Matt Ballard appeared in the July 8 edition of The Charleston Gazette.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to consider jobs and economic impacts as the agency continues with its regulatory actions related to coal production and coal use as an energy source. That is the position that has been taken by many elected leaders in West Virginia, and now by 17 local chambers of commerce in West Virginia.

In a joint letter mailed to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, our 17 local chambers are calling on the agency to finalize its permit reviews and provide coal companies and the miners they employ with a transparent regulatory process that is based on science and that balances environmental protection with job preservation and economic well-being in our region.

For the past two years, the EPA has been undertaking a number of regulatory actions that are posing challenges on coal production and coal use, particularly in Central Appalachia. These include an ongoing review of hundreds of coal mining permits, new air regulations that will cause the closure of coal-fired electric power generation stations and the recent revocation of a coal mining permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine in Logan/Mingo Counties.

The members of these 17 local chambers of commerce in West Virginia want to express their collective concerns about continued and protracted EPA “reviews” of coal mining permits and the disruption and economic perils this presents. What happens with these permits will affect thousands of good-paying jobs and millions and millions in state and local tax revenues. It also will affect the viability of thousands of small businesses, many of which are members of our organizations.

Our chambers also have concerns regarding the agency’s apparent disinterest in understanding the economic and employment impacts of its regulatory actions. The concern is based on public statements by Administrator Jackson that her agency generally doesn’t care about the economic well-being of coal communities and their residents.

This is a rather perplexing viewpoint, given how good jobs and incomes are needed if there is to be the proper environment for personal health, growth and advancement. Finally, our chambers are distressed about a recent decision by the EPA to revoke the existing Spruce Mine permit. We find this action to be exceedingly troubling and spreads fear, uncertainty and unhealthy anxiety among all coal mining families.

Our organizations and our members urge the EPA to be mindful of the need to preserve domestic energy production and maintain affordable energy prices. In today’s chaotic world, with unstable governments and continued terrorist activities, we must maximize the energy resources that have been bestowed upon this great nation.

Moreover, impeding domestic energy production will result only in higher energy prices, which will bring about new economic hardships and challenges for American small businesses and families. Given the continued weak business conditions across this nation, our members — and our communities — cannot afford another serious economic shock, which would result from continued permit delays and harsh regulatory actions.

The local chambers that included their names on the letter to EPA Administrator Jackson are Barbour, Beckley-Raleigh, Charleston Regional, Elkins-Randolph, Greater Bluefield, Greater Greenbrier, Huntington Regional, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Martinsburg-Berkeley, Morgantown Area, Summersville Area, Princeton-Mercer, Tug Valley, Weirton Area and the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ballard is president of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.




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