Amendments from local lawmakers aimed at reducing government regulations on coal mining were passed this weekend as part of an overall budget bill approved by the U.S. House.
Two amendments from Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and a third from Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, were passed largely along party lines. The measure is now before the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., voted in favor of all three amendments - as did McKinley, Johnson and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio.
Rahall was the only member among the group to vote against the overall budget bill, which passed by a vote of 235-189.
"The EPA's action (at Spruce Mine in Logan County) has had a chilling effect on many types of companies, all of which rely on the certainty of the permit process in order to make crucial business planning decisions," McKinley said on the House floor. "Today it happened at Spruce Mine in West Virginia; tomorrow the EPA could pull an existing water permit at a steel mill in Indiana, a chemical plant in Texas, a sewage plant in Iowa. The possibilities are endless and so is the potential for job loss."
McKinley noted before the House that fly ash is locally recycled into drywall and concrete and used in schools, homes and public buildings, and likely "the one housing the EPA."
"If the EPA were allowed to continue with their plan to designate fly ash as a hazardous material, all of these time-tested, energy-saving uses would come to a halt," he told members. "The expense of handling the byproduct would increase logarithmically, and so would our electrical prices.
"By increasing the cost of power, it understandably causes the price of producing American-made products to increase and puts America at a severe disadvantage against our foreign competition."
"This proposed sweeping regulatory action would radically alter the definition of a stream as well as how the agency measures material damage outside of the permit area," Johnson said before the House. "To date, the agency has provided no studies, data or support to justify these radical changes.
"Given the complete lack of justification, analysis or rationale for these proposed changes, it can be said that this is a political decision and not one based on science or fact. This flies in the face of the administration's pledge to base rule-making decisions on science and not on political factors. Furthermore, several states have expressed serious concerns about the need and justification for the proposal."