McKinley seeks EPA enforcement probe

(News and Sentinel 5-4-2012)  A West Virginia congressman questioning remarks by a former administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked for a probe into alleged unfair enforcement actions.Rep. David McKinley, R-1st, cited the comments by Dr. Al Armendariz, the former Region VI administrator who resigned after he said the EPA should make examples of companies like how the Romans performed random crucifixions in conquered lands to set examples of their authority. He made those comments two years ago and recently resigned after they came to light.
 
"These comments suggest that the culture of the Environmental Protection Agency values bullying and threatening companies," McKinley said. "Energy producers provide millions of American jobs and drive our economy. They should expect fairer treatment than the modern day equivalent of public crucifixion. I hope the EPA will look into their internal culture and practices and root out these anti-energy sentiments."
 
McKinley requested the investigation of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr.
 
"Dr. Armendariz's comments have seriously undermined public confidence in the EPA and its treatment of energy producers," McKinley said. "Energy companies employ millions of Americans and provide the energy our country depends, and it's inappropriate for a high-ranking EPA official to treat them with such a heavy hand in order to affect or intimidate others."
 
McKinley also asked for an investigation into when the started enforcement action against companies, only to drop it.
 
"I am concerned that a strategy of punish first, ask questions later, has hurt companies by causing them to incur legal and compliance expenses for no valid reason," he said.
 
McKinley is running for re-election in the Republican primary for the 1st District. Apparent Democratic nominee, Sue Thorn of Wheeling, believes McKinley is putting company profits above health, said Erin Beck, a Thorn spokesman.
 
"West Virginia's economy is highly dependent on the extraction industry. That's why I'm deeply concerned about mine safety and the health of our workers and families," Thorn said in a statement to the newspaper. "Congressman McKinley, who has accepted money from Don Blankenship (former coal company executive,) continues to accept dirty money from companies who prioritize profits over people's lives. Rep. McKinley should have turned down money from Don Blankenship, and he should be focusing on serving the middle class, not corporations and special interests."
 
McKinley has been a vocal critic of the EPA, particularly over retroactive enforcement actions impacting the mines and the agency's proposed classification of coal ash, also called fly ash, an ingredient in construction materials, as a hazardous waste. On the latter, McKinley this past week has been critical of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., over what McKinley said was a flip-flop on preventing the EPA from reclassifying coal ash.
 
An amendment preventing the reclassification was added to the transportation bill passed by the Republican-controlled House and Rockefeller, a member of the conference committee on the Senate and House versions, told politico.com that the coal ash bill was "going down" and that his voting record has evolved into a pro-health position. He also said Democrats would not support a House amendment approving the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.
 
Rockefeller issued another statement on Wednesday:
"I want to clear up Congressman McKinley's misleading comments about my position on coal ash. I do not and have never supported federal efforts to label coal ash as a hazardous waste, and he knows it. Reuse and recycling of coal ash is absolutely in the best interests of West Virginia and the country. We just need to make sure that concerns about health and the environment are addressed, too.
"But let's be honest: coal ash and two other environmental provisions were added to the otherwise empty House highway bill in order to create controversy, not to solve problems. Setting standards for coal ash impoundments is, and always has been, an environmental question. Pushing this or any other controversial provision will bring down a highway bill that West Virginia workers desperately need.
 
"I'm going to keep working on coal ash reuse but I'm not going to pretend to West Virginians that it's ready or right for the highway bill. We need roads and bridges and the jobs that go with them in our state, not political games. House Republicans want to cut transportation funding more deeply than ever before, and they should stop trying to distract West Virginians from the harm of their real agenda."
 
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