CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Delegate Rupie Phillips on Thursday blasted President Barack Obama and the federal Office of Surface Mining for the proposed “Stream Protection Rule,” which he said represents the administration’s latest assault on the state’s coal industry.
Phillips, D-Logan, voiced his criticisms during the federal agency’s formal public comment hearing on the proposal Thursday evening at the Charleston Civic Center.
Phillips, who works in the coal industry, said the rule was another thinly veiled attempt to use overreaching federal regulations to put coal companies out of business. He said the rule would lead to more layoffs, bankruptcies and eventually threaten the reliability of the nation’s power grid.
“When the power grid does fail, the blood will be on your hands,” Phillips said to federal agency representatives. “I hope the first power that goes out will be your house.”
In its presentation of the proposed rule, the agency did admit the proposal would likely result in a reduction of mining jobs and reduce coal production. These effects would be most severe in the Appalachian coal basin.
“All of these layoffs are going to bring depression,” Phillips said. “We’ve got a drug epidemic now in Southern West Virginia and throughout the whole state… A lot of it is brought on by depression, and you all are going to continue to depress our communities.”
Phillips said he wished the agency could delay moving forward on the proposal until a new administration can be voted into the White House – one that would be less hostile to the nation’s coal industry.
“I can’t wait until you all get a layoff,” Phillips told the panel of environmental regulators.
Phillips said the coal industry has worked hard to find ways to comply with regulations. But he said every time the industry finds a way to meet these requirements, regulators come up with costlier, even more stringent proposals.
“We want to mine coal, everybody out here wants to mine coal to make an honest living, and you all continue to shut us down,” Phillips said.
In addition to Phillips, House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and Delegates Marty Gearheart and John Shott, both R-Mercer, spoke out against the rule.