CHARLESTON — Earlier this month EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was awarded the 2016 Franklin Delano Roosevelt Public Service Award from the Roosevelt Foundation.
That honor didn't set well with at least one West Virginia leader who says the agency’s agenda has had devastating financial consequences here.
McCarthy was credited with her work on the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement by the Roosevelt Institute, but coal industry groups say their relationship with McCarthy and the EPA have not been very positive.
As West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts suggested, the EPA’s lack of popularity in the state has much to do with its policies in regard to coal mining.
“Our experience in West Virginia has not been positive,” Roberts said. “The United States EPA is the most criticized agency of the federal bureaucracy. Elected leaders, including our Democratic governor and Democratic United States Senator, have publicly criticized this agenda-driven agency.”
That agenda includes reducing carbon emissions from energy-producing industries by 32 percent over the next 14 years. Those on the climate change side of the debate argue that swift and abrupt change in energy policies must be implemented to prevent disaster and calamity. Greenpeace International is one of the largest of these groups with this concern. Its members argue that coal-fired power plants are the largest source of manmade CO2 emissions. They say this type of energy production is the biggest threat facing our climate.
Roberts, however, said McCarthy doesn't seem interested in collaborating with West Virginia area to address these issues.
“The agency's administrator has repeatedly been invited to our state and region, and we have yet to see her make an appearance,” Roberts said.
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) mirrored that sentiment and has previously said McCarthy cannot understand the effects this “war on coal” has had on the state unless she actually visits.
Indeed, the past five years have been rough for the industry and its workers. At the beginning of 2016, thousands of West Virginia coal industry workers were laid off, including 850 at Alpha Natural Resources and another 146 at Black Hawk Mining. That was just two companies and only in the month of January. Murray mines announced last year that it would lay off more than 1,000 workers as part of a cost- reduction plan for the company.
The loss of jobs in the coal economy worries legislators and other government agencies as well because the many lost jobs also equates to lost tax revenue for the state, counties and municipalities of the region. Approximately 11,000 coal jobs have been lost since 2013, according to reports.
Roberts said the impact will be known for generations.
“Time will tell the whole tale and the judgment of history will be important,” Roberts said. “The current view is not favorable.”