At issue | June 18 Herald-Leader news article, "Use of mining permit suspended; Affects Ky., 5 other Appalachian states"
During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a lot of talk about creating a new way of doing things in Washington.
The word "post-partisan" was used to describe an end to partisan maneuvering and political games and the restoration of the average American's faith in government.
Unfortunately, since the election, the partisan maneuvering and political games in Washington not only continue, but have increased. In fact, many agencies and agency heads in the new administration appear to have decided their focus should be imposing a radical agenda on American families and businesses. These particular agencies have chosen to ignore the people's call for more cooperation in pursuit of their own agenda.
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The honorable men and woman of Appalachia sadly illustrate this decision all too well and are suffering because of it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has relentlessly pursued the utter destruction of the coal industry, leaving tens of thousands of hard-working people nervous about their jobs and their ability to provide food and shelter for their families. It is clear that this EPA has an "anti-coal" agenda.
First, the EPA stalled the entire permitting process by insisting on an "enhanced review" of all coal mine permits, even though the existing system already can take years and is based upon thorough examinations. Then, it even revoked an existing permit, despite the fact that the mine had gone through an extensive investigation prior to being permitted and has been in operation for several years.
The latest action could be the most devastating: The EPA announced new water conductivity standards that are not scientifically supported and go against all historical methods of judging the health of streams.
In fact, the new standards could actually compromise water health, as they only measure solids in general, not the specifics of which solids and how much. Since the condition of a stream depends upon a careful mixture of minerals, measuring the overall amount actually provides no insight at all into its state.
Even more confounding than this lack of scientific backing is the fact that these new standards are only being applied to the coal industry, despite the fact that a multitude of industries impact streams, and to only six states total. Why exempt the many other businesses that adversely affect water health, and why exempt the other 44 states?
If there were any logic at all to these standards, shouldn't they apply to all industries and all states? As they do not, the only possible explanation is that this is yet another blatantly biased attempt to target coal, and in so doing the men and women of Appalachia.
Considering that Appalachia is a historically struggling region that has been hit hard by the lingering economic crisis, targeting this region only exponentially increases their troubles.
Its unemployment rate is already staggering, and threatening its main source of jobs and energy would pick their pockets bare. So while EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has been quoted as saying economic considerations don't factor into her decision-making, the truth is that during an economic recession, jobs matter a great deal to the people of Appalachia.
The simple truth that the EPA fails to understand is that playing political games is playing with people's lives. While they may score partisan points with their extreme activist allies, they are destroying the jobs of good people — people who want nothing more than to be self-sufficient and independent.
It's unconscionable and must be stopped, for to the folks who live in Appalachia, political games are not games at all, but a matter of their culture and livelihoods.