In the last year, coal jobs have been on the decline in the region. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stopped on Monday at Whayne Supply in Hazard to announce his plans to introduce The Coal Jobs Protection Act, legislation aiming to put a time limit on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for decisions on permit applications for coal mine operations.
“This EPA has turned the coal permitting process into an illegitimate back-door means to shut down coal mines permanently, by sitting on permits indefinitely and removing any certainty from the regulatory process. By playing this game of ‘run out the clock,’ they have put many Kentucky mining operations into limbo and cost Kentucky thousands of jobs and over $123 million in coal severance money,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s legislation would require the EPA to approve or veto 402 permit applications within 270 days and 404 permits within 90 days of receiving the application, and if the EPA does not act within that time the permit would be automatically approved.
According to a press release from McConnell’s office, Kentucky has nearly 40 402 permits that have been held up since 2008, putting 3,500 mining jobs in jeopardy if the EPA doesn’t revise its permit process. In 2012, total coal production throughout the state decreased by more than 16 percent and direct employment fell by 22 percent.
McConnell said on Monday that for every one direct job loss in the coal industry, there are three ancillary jobs lost.
The act would also help implement reform to the Clean Air Act, which McConnell said would help farmers, home builders, realtors, transportation –industry workers, municipalities, and manufacturers.
McConnell was joined in Hazard by Representative Shelly Capito, R-W. Va., and Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R) and state Rep. Fitz Steele (D).
“Coal is a vital part of my state’s economy, and a vital part of America’s energy portfolio,” McConnell said. “The EPA’s attach on this important Kentucky industry hampers the growth of jobs, and it especially hamper the growth of small business — the greatest engines of job creation.”