Fighting for Coal Regions
Whether you live in a coal-producing community, in a part of the district more directly reliant upon rail or manufacturing jobs, etc., recent years in Southwest Virginia and throughout Appalachia have been difficult. Unfortunately, life above ground is impacted when work stops underground as the result of the war on coal, the low cost of competitive fuel, and a sluggish world economy.
Burdensome, job-killing regulations are further complicating various economic development efforts. But as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) noted, “…the Administration has finally acknowledged the damaging effects of its regulatory onslaught in our region with the POWER+ proposal which accompanied this year’s budget request.”
There are several ongoing congressional efforts to counter the regulatory onslaught, and I am proud to be a part of that group in Congress that continues to defend the reasonable and rational use of coal as a major energy source. Additional efforts supporting economic development in coal communities and providing relief from various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations continue as well.
I am a proud original cosponsor of the most recent of these efforts, the bipartisan Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act (H.R. 4456).
This bill aims to accelerate $1 billion in existing available funding in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AML) Fund to revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry. The AML program, established as part of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), promotes the reclamation of certain sites that were mined and then abandoned.
The RECLAIM Act is an important bill to help reinvigorate coal communities throughout Appalachia struggling with reclaiming and restoring abandoned mine sites in a way that would help put people back to work. I will continue fighting along with Chairman Rogers and others to advance economic development strategies such as the RECLAIM Act which would help keep and grow jobs in Appalachia.
EPA – “Let Them Drink Lead”
As you may recall from my column of January 25, a group of 25 Virginia Tech researchers led by Dr. Marc Edwards (an expert on water quality) was vital in exposing the crisis in Flint, Michigan in which the water has been shown to have been contaminated with lead, a harmful neurotoxin, all while the state of Michigan, overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acted publicly as if nothing were wrong.
Last week, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held the first congressional hearing on the matter. Dr. Edwards served as a witness at this hearing, and Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was kind enough to allow me to participate, though I am not a member of this committee.
As Dr. Edwards’ written testimony reports, “The very agencies paid to protect us, not only failed to do so, but also revealed their callous indifference to the plight of our most vulnerable.” He blames “Institutional Scientific Misconduct perpetrated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. [EPA], primary agencies and water utilities.”
Dr. Edwards further reports, “Clearly, we do not have adequate checks and balances on the power of these agencies, nor do we hold them accountable for their unethical actions.”
My office contacted Dr. Edwards and one of his colleagues, and was told that under the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), utilities are only required to take one 1 liter sample at each home. Though not specified in the LCR, we are told that for more accuracy, these samples should be taken with no pre-flushing, with large-mouth bottles, and with aerators in place during sampling. Not following these steps reportedly results in common manipulations that minimize the detection of lead in drinking water.
Further, we are told that Dr. Edwards uses a 3 sequential sample protocol. He collects the first flush sample as is required by the LCR, then a second sample in order to get water that has sat in the service line, and, finally, a third sample to indicate lead levels after the lines have been flushed. These steps, which aren’t required under the LCR, reportedly are more informative.
At the hearing, I asked Dr. Edwards to let me know if he knew of any problems in our area. He indicated he would. If you have concerns, I recommend you contact your local water company and ask if they follow the protocols detailed above.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.