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A decision with W.Va. or against it

May 2, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who once co-sponsored a bill to counter an Environmental Protection Agency proposal on coal ash, now seems to be backing away from that stance. That should disappoint West Virginians who want their lawmakers in Washington to defend them, not President Barack Obama's campaign against coal.

Obama's Environmental Protection Agency has proposed strict new limits on ash produced when coal is burned in power plants and other industries. At one point, Rockefeller, D-W.Va., joined with Sen. Joe Manchin, also D-W.Va., to co-sponsor a measure aimed at curbing the EPA. The idea was similar to that contained in a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

McKinley's bill passed the House of Representatives but was shelved by pro-Obama leaders in the Senate. Earlier this month, in an attempt to force the Senate's hand, McKinley sponsored a coal-ash amendment to a major transportation bill. It was approved and sent to the Senate.

There, Rockefeller has declared the amendment dead on arrival. Adding a stipulation on coal ash to the transportation bill "is a deal breaker," he said. He added his ideas about coal ash have changed, and that he believes public health and environmental concerns about the substance need to be addressed.

Reasonable, science-based regulation of coal ash certainly is to be supported. But the EPA's proposal was to declare it "hazardous waste," with limits that would have crippled some industries. According to one estimate, the EPA plan would have cost 316,000 jobs and added billions of dollars a year to the cost of highway construction - one of the primary subjects of the transportation bill.

McKinley's amendment should be adopted by the Senate - though it is likely liberals there will derail it. If Rockefeller wants to serve his West Virginia constituents, he will not be among them.



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