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In addition to threatening our regions ballooning unemployment problem, the EPAs action threatens our countrys energy and national security. Permits issued under the Clean Water Act provide the coal necessary to supply affordable electricity to nearly 80 million homes and over 95 percent of our domestic manufacturers. Preliminary data from the EPW Committees report indicate that by delaying these essential permits, we stand to lose more than 2 billion tons of domestically produced coal. Efforts to replace coal with wind, solar or other alternative energy sources are years away from being technologically feasible, which means the United States will have to look abroad to unfriendly foreign regimes to replace this two-year supply of low-cost, domestic coal. When energy prices inevitably skyrocket, every American who turns on a light switch will pay the price of the EPAs singular focus on Appalachian coal. That may be great for EPA bureaucrats, but its bad for the millions of Americans who rely on coal to heat their homes and power their businesses.
We have always believed that mining operations in Appalachia should evenly weigh the interests of environmental protection, economic development and energy supply. In this time of economic strife, high unemployment and dangers abroad, America cannot afford an EPA that threatens to put an entire industry out of business. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in any industry, and doing so in the energy sector is a recipe for disaster. Now is the time to put politics aside so that thousands of citizens in the Appalachian region can return to work.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is a co-founder of the Congressional Coal Caucus. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has served on the Appropriations Committee for more than 25 years and is ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.