Thursday, Democratic lawmakers from West Virginia will be in Washington, D.C. to meet with top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
House Speaker Tim Miley, state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio and others in the delegation believe it is significant that they will get face time with the new head of the EPA. Such a meeting would have been unthinkable with McCarthy’s predecessor, Lisa Jackson.
McCarthy deserves credit for granting an audience with what she knows will be a hostile crowd because of the agency’s increased regulatory pressure on the coal industry. Then again, McCarthy, a straight-talking Bostonian, might just give our folks an earful herself.
In an interview with the New York Times this week, McCarthy flatly denied she has it out for coal. “We don’t have a war on coal,” she said. “We’re doing our business, which is to reduce pollution. We’re following the law.”
Lisa Jackson may have been the poster child for the regulatory rigor of the EPA, but it was actually Gina McCarthy who handled most of the legwork as head of the agency’s air and radiation office.
The Times says McCarthy helped write “tough greenhouse gas standards for vehicles, a tighter ozone limit that the White House rejected, the first rule on mercury emissions from power plants, and a regulation on smokestack pollution that crosses state lines, which has been blocked by a federal court.”
And it’s McCarthy who has been chosen to carry out President Obama’s precept to use the considerable power of the federal government to deal with climate change by fiat. The most significant step is the planned limiting of emissions that will make it impossible to build coal-fired power plants in the future, while phasing out existing plants.
Meanwhile, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown Monday, where he continued to perpetuate the remarkable fiction that the Administration has an “all of the above” strategy on energy.
“It’s real,” Moniz said, perhaps trying a bit too hard to convince some of the coal folks in the crowd who know otherwise.
As evidence, Moniz cited the Administration’s budgeting of $6 billion for research on how to burn coal more cleanly by capturing and storing carbon emissions. Unfortunately, you can’t tell by reading the budget whether this money has actually been obligated for clean coal research.
But why ruin a good soundbyte?
This week, Politico reported that West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall was one of seven lawmakers who attended a naming ceremony at the EPA headquarters. Rahall wanted to get a few minutes with McCarthy about the delays in the coal mine permitting process.
Rahall says he told McCarthy “a lot of our coal people feel that after negotiating with your people, and they agree on most everything if not everything you want, and then you move the goal posts on them and make it harder for them to negotiate with you.”
The Congressman says he’s more optimistic he can work with McCarthy, noting that Jackson would not even return his phone calls.
It appears, so far, that Gina McCarthy is at least willing to listen to the West Virginia delegation about coal, but it’s doubtful the answers she and the EPA will provide are going to change.