State Rep. Leslie Combs’s ongoing efforts to boost coal’s profile among federal environmental officials took a step forward recently when she and Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters met with Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeast Region.
“For about 18 months now, I have tried to start a dialog with the EPA to see if there is a way we can end what has been called a war on coal and put our miners back to work,” said Rep. Combs, D-Pikeville. “Earlier efforts unfortunately did not bear fruit, but I think we crossed a divide with the meeting Secretary Peters and I had with Ms. Fleming, the EPA Regional Administrator for Kentucky and seven other southern states.”
“We discussed current and future regulations that affect the energy sector broadly, and also specific regulations that are having an impact on the coal industry,” said Secretary Peters.
Combs and Peters said the two-hour meeting on March 20 in Atlanta provided an opportunity to discuss the benefits of coal when it is mined properly.
“We discussed with Ms. Fleming that, when the best practices are used, mining can be beneficial to a region,” Combs said. “At the end of the day, we said that states should be given sufficient flexibility in meeting federal environmental standards, consistent with states’ needs, and that federal standards should be applied uniformly across states.”
“We need to continue to discuss rational environmental regulatory options so that our citizens and businesses can have access to reliable, affordable energy,” said Peters.
Combs’s attempt to meet with a high-level federal environmental official began in the fall of 2011. She followed that request letter with another last August, when she had hoped to talk with someone during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where she was a delegate.
In that letter, she wrote “there has to be better dialog between those of us who proudly serve the country’s coal-mining regions and those overseeing federal regulations that, until recent years, were done in a much more even-handed manner.”
Combs said she and Peters believe they have taken “a step in a positive direction.”
“Our goal now is to build on the discussion,” she said.