West Virginia Dems slam Obama's EPA for delaying mining permit

"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," Sen. Manchin said. "The EPA has lost court case after court case for its overreach, and it should be using better judgment by now.

"I vow to work with the governor's office, our entire Congressional delegation and members of both parties to make sure that this vital project will move forward."

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Sen. Rockefeller said the layoff notices were caused by "bureaucracy and delay," and also pledged to fight for the approval of the permit.

"There is simply too much at stake," he said. "Both sides must come together to get this resolved for Mingo County and throughout southern West Virginia."

The State Journal of West Virginia reported on Wednesday that Consol plans to lay off 145 people because of the decision, and that these layoffs would start Dec. 30. The company will also completely idle surface mining operations at one location.

But the EPA said Wednesday that it is "not aware of any outstanding permitting issues" for the mine in that one location, and said it is actively working with West Virginia and Consol on how its mining operations would affect water quality.

EPA also said it just notified West Virginia last week that it is satisfied with the way Consol will deal with pollution discharges from its Buffalo Mountain Coal Mine. It indicated that this approval should allow West Virginia to issue a permit for these operations soon.

West Virginia Democrats said the surface mining project is related to the King Coal Highway project, which will create a four-lane highway across a mountainous section of West Virginia. But other reports say the EPA has objected to parts of the mining project, in part because of environmental threats caused by burying mountain streams.

The EPA says it is continuing to review approval of this project under the Clean Water Act, and said it wants to ensure that water quality is protected.

Governor Tomblin blamed the EPA for further delaying the project, and said that would cost jobs in his state.

"Instead of stalling and creating unnecessary impediments, we should be working together to put people to work, develop our infrastructure, and provide the low-priced energy that our country needs," he said. "This project would accomplish all three of these crucial goals."

— This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.

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