Our colleague Bryan Walsh reports the Environmental Protection Agency today vetoed the largest mountaintop mining removal permit in West Virginia’s history. The move, which red-lights the 2,300-acre Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, comes the morning after acting Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vowed to “aggressively pursue” legal action against the EPA in his state of the state address and accused the Obama administration of “bringing a crushing halt” to West Virginia’s cherished coal industry.
West Virginia’s two Democratic Senators, Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, vented their own frustrations today in D.C.; Rockefeller fired off a letter expressing “outrage” to President Obama and Manchin pledged in a statement “to do everything in my power to fight this decision.”
The confrontation comes at a delicate time politically. In Washington, a new GOP-led House is hoping to hog tie the EPA’s carbon regulatory powers and fence-straddling Democratic Senators bracing for tough re-election fights in 2012 may be persuadable to join with Republicans and coal country Democrats on legislation that would do exactly that. That Manchin is up next cycle and Tomblin, acting Governor in wake of Manchin’s move to the Senate, may face a gubernatorial race sooner rather than later makes it more likely that they will aggressively engage the Obama administration on environmental issues.