Rep. Jenkins: The war on coal ends now
In the final weeks of his administration, President Barack Obama pushed forward yet another job-killing regulation aimed at West Virginia’s coal miners.
Having lost thousands of coal jobs over those eight years, West Virginians could not afford yet another federal effort to close mines and put miners out of work. But that’s exactly what the stream buffer zone rule would do — and why Congress is putting a stop to it.
On Wednesday, the House will act on legislation I’ve introduced to stop the stream buffer zone rule, the final component of the last president’s war on coal.
It’s no coincidence that this rule went into effect the day before President Donald Trump took office. We will now use every tool at our disposal to roll back this and other job-killing, overreaching regulations to protect our jobs and save our coal communities.
The loss of a coal job and the closing of a coal mine affects the entire state. Coal has been our state’s backbone for more than 100 years. Its severance tax revenues help to fund our schools, pay for our police and fire departments and put money in the coffers of our local governments.
As mines have closed and less coal has been mined, these taxes have dried up. That means our cities and towns are now making tough cuts, laying off first responders and consolidating schools.
When we lose coal jobs, we lose other jobs as well. When coal families lose a paycheck, they aren’t able to buy goods and services like they used to.
When a coal family goes out to eat, the restaurant owner can pay employees and the rent. Cooks and servers spend their earnings to pay their bills and shop at local businesses. Coal mines buy goods from suppliers, who create a network of related jobs and spending.
Without the good paycheck that coal provides, everyone down the line is affected. Closing a mine hurts us all. That is why stopping these regulations is so critical — our state simply can’t afford to lose any more jobs or any more opportunities.
I have helped lead the effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop the stream buffer zone rule using what’s known as the Congressional Review Act. By introducing a resolution using the Congressional Review Act, Congress has to take an up-or-down, simple majority vote on the regulation.
If Congress votes to overturn the regulation, it’s done. It can’t be introduced again, even in a similar form, unless Congress votes to allow it. This provides certainty for our state and our mines that a future administration can’t come in and force the stream buffer zone rule on us again.
This regulation has less to do with clean water and more to do with Washington bureaucrats adding red tape. There is no evidence that this rule would make water any safer or protect the environment — it simply duplicates standards that our state agencies already oversee.
We can all agree that clean water is important and vital for our residents, but this rule would do nothing to protect it. This rule is simply about killing an industry that the previous administration opposed, threatening the jobs and livelihood of thousands of American workers.
I am proud to fight for the people of West Virginia and for a better future for our state. We can work together to stop rules and policies that hurt our state while pushing for solutions that create opportunities for all.
We have had a change in leadership in the White House, and now we can put an end to the war on coal once and for all.
This is about defending jobs, protecting families, and giving West Virginians new opportunities in West Virginia. And it starts with repealing this job-killing rule so West Virginia can grow again.
Evan Jenkins, a Republican from Huntington, represents West Virginia’s 3rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives.