(First Published in The Martinsburg Journal on April 26, 1998)
By Michael E. Caryl
One doesn't have to endorse the personal ethical standards of the incumbent to recognize the positive aspects of having some of our school children meet a President of the United States during his visit here. Certainly, the Earth Day theme of the President's appearance dovetailed nicely with the pro-environment indoctrination the children regularly receive in school.
Of course, it is important and desirable that we all work to clean up our parks, streams, etc. As far back as Teddy Roosevelt, Presidents were leading us in protecting the natural environment. However, there are other aspects of this President's environmental agenda about which one might have Another View.
Those other aspects include certain proposed environmental regulations and pending enforcement actions, as well as an international global warming treaty, all of which, quite simply, will crush the economy of West Virginia if they are not stopped. Specifically, in a three-pronged attack, orchestrated by the Clinton administration, eight Northeastern states have filed petitions against West Virginia and eighteen other states, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules and, at a meeting in Kyoto, Japan, Vice President A1 Gore has helped negotiate an international treaty.
The object of all of these is to dramatically reduce, through stricter air quality requirements, the burning of West Virginia coal at manufacturing plants and electric power generation facilities. Indeed, a report, prepared by a group coordinating the target states' resistance of such onerous requirements, goes even further in stating that "EPA is attempting to carry out an agenda that is aimed at eliminating coal as an energy source in the U.S."
These job-killing initiatives, by the Clinton administration, are all the more outrageous when the asserted rationale for them is considered. Specifically, it is contended by the EPA that, while West Virginia has met current air quality standards, the reason that the Northeastern states have not met those same standards is because of emissions drifting there from the manufacturing and electric power plants in the Mid-West which burn West Virginia coal.
In other words, defying scientific principles, logic and common sense, the EPA is, in effect, saying that the air pollution in the Northeastern states is caused not by the millions of vehicles clogging the highways of those jurisdictions, but by emissions from the coal-burning plants hundreds of miles away! Indeed, in the EPA's fantasyland, such emissions must be, by some mischievous wind currents, flushed out of the air immediately surrounding their source and then malevolently dumped onto innocent victims in New York, Boston and beyond.
Based on nothing more compelling than that, the EPA would, instead of making the Northeastern states clean up their own act, impose significantly stricter air quality requirements on West Virginia industry. While the environmental benefits of the proposed stricter requirements are the subject of great doubt among respected scientists, their deleterious economic impact on West Virginia's citizens is beyond debate.
Objective estimates set West Virginia industry's annual cost, of complying with the unrealistic new requirements, at a quarter of a BILLION dollars. Furthermore, the loss of jobs, in the manufacturing sector of our state's economy alone, as a result of the stricter requirements, is projected to exceed 11,000. The certainty and gravity of the threat to West Virginia's economy from these latest manifestations of environmental extremism are, perhaps, best demonstrated by considering the varied perspectives of those who would resist such actions.
Upon a political landscape, otherwise marked by the deepest divisions between the business community and organized labor, there is absolute solidarity between those two interest groups when it comes to their opposition to the actions of the Clinton administration that threaten to destroy their businesses and jobs. The existence of such a rare coalition also signals that this issue is not just another petty partisan policy dispute.
In the face of this real threat to our economic environment, where are our public officials who will, just as they do when the natural environment is at risk, boldly step forward to save it? Our Legislature and Governor appear to be doing everything they can to fight this critical battle for us, but their capacities are inherently limited by the resources and legal authorities at their command. It has been reported that our own Congressman Wise has introduced legislation calling for a delay in the implementation of the stricter air quality requirements.
What we really need is for our state's entire Congressional delegation not to just make speeches or introduce bills to delay these destructive policies. What they really need to do is to march en mass [assuming five of them qualify as a "mass"]into the Oval Office, and there to flex their well-advertised muscles of influence with their co-partisan Bill Clinton by insisting that he retreat from the destructive course being pressed forward by his EPA and his tree-hugging, second banana, A1 Gore.
Finally, how are we to regard our renowned environmental crusader, Bill Clinton, who has either personally directed or has strongly encouraged this shameful attack on the very people who elected him? Is this the President who has performed so magnificently in his official duties that we are compelled to completely disregard what he does in his private life?
Even if we don't care what went on between Bill and Jennifer, Paula, Kathleen, Monica et al, as West Virginians we must stand up and say "No, we will not permit you to use phony, contrived concerns about our responsibility for polluted air in distant states and foreign lands to destroy our way of life."
Perhaps, the next time Bill Clinton and A1 Gore come to West Virginia, instead of stopping in Harpers Ferry, they can select some, less picturesque, coal mining community to explain why their EPA should be allowed to put the employed members of their audience out of work. If they did, they would surely learn that, even if hitting on a female subordinate is okay, destroying livelihoods is not. They would learn about Another View which sees that something uglier than air pollution in the Northeast is an unemployment line in West Virginia.