A false choice

Yesterday’s congressional hearings attacking the EPA – part 2 of the hearings House Republicans so subtly titled, “EPA Mining Policies: Assault on Appalachian Jobs” – were mostly what you would expect. But there was one important moment that deserves attention.

EPA acting water chief Nancy Stoner was testifying about the agency’s efforts and the voluminous science supporting a stricter approach to permitting surface mines. She said something that is both true and too often overlooked in the debate about coal and Appalachia:

Appalachian families should not have to choose between healthy watersheds and a healthy economy — they deserve both.

Here at The Center, we firmly believe that not only do Appalachian families deserve both a healthy environment and a healthy economy, but that both are possible. Too often, the debate over coal mining in Appalachia is presented environmental concerns pitted against economic concerns. In fact, a healthy environment is a prerequisite for a strong and sustainable economy. That could explain why West Virginia’s economy, despite abundant natural resources, has always struggled.

These hearings were mostly a one-sided sham. But if Stoner’s comment gets any attention, perhaps they will have accomplished something after all.

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