Yesterday Consol Energy a Pennsylvania-based coal and natural gas company announced it will lay off 145 workers because the company is unable to get the permits it needs from Obamas Environmental Protection Agency for a surface mining project in southern West Virginia. The company said it will shut down three coal mines, a preparation plant, and an administrative facility in Mingo County as a result of EPA’s failure to issue the permits.
The Mingo County operations are part of a larger project known as the King Coal Highway. The King Coal Highway is planned to run between Williamson and Bluefield and be part of the Interstate 73/74 corridor. In an unusual public-private partnership, West Virginia officials enlisted coal companies, including Consol Energy, to help build the highway, allowing them to keep the coal they uncover while grading the new road.
The project is stalled, however, because EPA has yet to give it approval under the Clean Water Act. EPA may be concerned highway construction on Buffalo Mountain will disrupt mountain streams and thus cause environmental harm.
The delay in getting the necessary permits and the resulting Christmastime layoffs have infuriated West Virginia politicians of both parties, who blame the agency for the lost opportunity to create jobs and improve infrastructure in the state.
“I am incensed and infuriated that the EPA would intentionally delay the needed permit for a public-private project that would bring so many good jobs and valuable infrastructure to communities that so desperately need them,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in a press statement. “The EPA has lost court case after court case for its overreach, and it should be using better judgment by now.”
The EPA’s delay of the West Virginia permits is one more example of the Obama administration’s hostility to fossil fuels in general and coal in particular. Not only does this hostility deprive the nation of an important domestic energy source, but of much needed jobs.
It will be interesting to see what happens when coal mining states that voted to reelect Obama, such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania begin to show unemployment growth thanks to the Obama energy policies.