- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas coal

West Virginia Democrats are trying to save jobs at a large mining operation in their state’s Clay County, saying an unfair and uncertain regulatory system is to blame for upcoming layoffs.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II and Gov. Joe Manchin III, both Democrats, on Monday visited the Consol Energy mine, where 500 workers are scheduled to lose their jobs next year. The company announced the layoffs after a Nov. 24 court ruling that forces Consol to repeat part of its permitting process.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers said in his ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the law by giving Consol its permit by not making enough information available during the public comment period, although he wrote that the error “did not stem from any wrongdoing on the part of the mining companies.”

Mr. Manchin told West Virginia Metro News before his visit that “it’s not that [Consol Energy] has environmental violations or they’ve done something wrong. It was basically a timing of a notification and if they missed that by whatever many days and they didn’t. Shutting down an entire operation for that is wrong.”

Mr. Rahall has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to reopen the public comment period, in hopes that the layoffs could be avoided, but nothing has been done yet.

“The situation at Consols and Little Eagle operation is just the latest example of how the employment of West Virginia coal miners, over the last decade or more, has repeatedly been threatened by disparate court actions on the permitting process for surface coal mining,” Mr. Rahall said in a Dec. 17 letter to the Armys assistant secretary for civil works. “This is an absolutely untenable situation. This permitting process should not be directed through litigation.”

‘Usurped

On another front, some people worry the Obama administration is taking authority away from the states by increasing federal oversight and regulation of mines.

The Department of Interiors Office of Surface Mining said last month that it would begin reviewing existing mining permits issued by the states using “stronger enforcement” mechanisms to regulate them.

Eight Republican senators wrote President Obama on Dec. 16 protesting the move. “States are better equipped to handle the management of coal mining and reclamation because the methods, challenges and characteristics of coal mining are unique to each state,” the letter said.

Other people say OSM is overstepping its bounds because other agencies - namely the Army Corps of Engineers - are already tasked with issuing and reviewing permits.

“The larger problem is that the federal government have usurped the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and various state governors and their regulatory agencies,” Carol Raulston, senior vice president of communications at the National Mining Association told The Washington Times in an e-mail.

“The grounds for these actions are not clear, leaving mine operators, their employees and families unsure of their future at a time when the administration says it is ‘focused on jobs,’ ” she added. “Apparently, miners jobs, which pay twice the average state wage in West Virginia, don’t count.”

Not rocking

A new Web video from Rock the Vote is asking young people to refrain from having sex, but not in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

Its an effort to punish people who oppose the groups political agenda.

Eva Amurri, an actress on the TV program “Californication,” and Zach Gilford, from the show “Friday Night Lights,” are featured in the video and lead a pledge vowing to withhold sex from people who dont support Democratic plans to expand health care.

“We pledge ourselves to the health and liberty of young Americans and to government for the people,” they say. “We pledge to educate ourselves to stand against those who fight us with mind, body and spirit, and to never [BLEEP] you if you are against us. We will vote against you, work against you and once again, just in case you forgot, never ever, never ever, never ever, [BLEEP] you.”

The video, which Rock the Vote describes as a “parody,” was produced by www.FunnyorDie.com.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com

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