Joint Senate Resolution 99 would place power of enforcement of conductivity and other water quality standards at mountaintop removal mining sites into the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, meaning coal companies in the state would not have to follow standards enacted by the federal EPA.
Senator Brandon Smith, who is the chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, sponsored this resolution and said it is a direct response to the EPA’s actions, some of which are “harmful to the region.”
He said many permits for new mining operations have been denied because those mines can not meet what he called “impossible conductivity standards.”
He said this resolution would be an “intelligent response” to the EPA’s “renegade” actions, adding the agency is operated as a “run-away arm of the president.”
“Coal is the cornerstone of Kentucky’s economy,” Smith said. “Everyone is in constant contact with coal.”
He said this resolution would be possible under the ninth amendment of the United States Constitution, which he said states that any state that feels the federal government is overreaching into their affairs can declare sanctuary from the federal government.
“This resolution is the first of its kind,” Smith said, adding that he felt other coal-producing states in Appalachia would soon follow suit. “It’s simply reasonable (to declare sanctuary).”
He said many people “go out with devotion” to support the EPA’s new conductivity standards and that since those standards have been in place, there has been a “showdown” between Kentucky and the EPA. Most people who support the EPA’s new standards, he said, don’t understand that they have “effectively shut down the industry.”
“We want the EPA to be successful and regulate pollution, but water companies can’t even meet those standards,” Smith said.
He said the people in his district were demanding that he and other legislators do something to push back against those standards and he said Senate Resolution 99 was his response.
“This is our first new tool to combat the EPA regulations,” Smith said, adding that he believed this resolution would be more effective in pushing back than the current lawsuit against the agency, of which Kentucky is a defendant.
“The EPA knows what this type of legislation can do,” Smith said. “This will force the EPA to back up and remove unrealistic regulations and do the job they were established to do 40 years ago.”
Smith said he would be “shocked” if the resolution doesn’t pass out of both the House and Senate, and said this will give Kentucky agencies power to oversee the coal industry in a manner that would allow coal mining to continue.
“This is the first offensive move we’ve made,” Smith said of the resolution. “Up until now, we’ve been playing defense.”