Rep. Jenkins plans to use ‘the power of the purse’ to fight EPA regulations
Jenkins was in Bluefield Thursday for the $2.5 million grant announcement for the city’s Commercialization Station and later talked about his work to try to curb rampant environmental regulations from the federal government.
“As a member of the appropriations committee, we are using the power of the purse,” he said.
That means trying to block funding for organizations like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that have hurt the coal industry and stifled job growth, he said.
It’s not only in the coal industry, he said, using an example of glass company in Cabell County that is now struggling to survive because it could not afford to comply with new EPA regulations regarding glass manufacturing.
“They say they are pushing for jobs, but these policies are hurting jobs,” he said, adding that the regulations go too far.
An example of how purse strings are used, he said, was a $500 million cut in funding for EPA for 2016.
“We cut that out of the budget Obama proposed (for the EPA),” he said.
Other federal agencies, however, can provide needed funding, and that’s what he does on the committee.
Giving the EDA (Economic Development Administration) funding is positive for job growth, he said, and that agency was the source for $2 million of the grants for the Commercialization Station. The other $500,000 is from the Shott Foundation.
Jenkins made it clear he works closely with federal funding agencies like the EDA and the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission).
“We have a good relationship with them,” he said, adding that the funding they disperse is beneficial and it’s part of his job to help direct it where it is needed in the state.
That’s why he wants to know of all the projects going on in localities, he said, and he is ready to help.
But regulations from the EPA has hurt the coal industry, much like the Dodd-Frank Act has hurt the banking industry, he said, because of the excessive regulations that add too much cost to the industries.
“We are trying to fight job-killing regulations by cutting off funds so they can’t implement these rules,” he said.
Another approach is through the courts, he said, mentioning West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey fighting the implementation of EPA changes that would mean even stricter regulations on emissions, further hurting the coal industry.
Morrisey has led the charge in a multi-state lawsuit challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a proposal, he said, that would once again increase emission standards for coal-fired power plants and eventually cost more jobs in West Virginia.
An avenue relating to the process of implementing far-reaching regulations that works in West Virginia is also being pursued on the federal level.
“It’s called the Reins Act,” Jenkins said. “It would require congressional revue of regulations that have a big impact.”
Those proposed regulations in the state go through a process that brings it to the full legislature in Charleston to consider, he said.
“No such process is in place in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Jenkins said the Reins Act has passed the House and been sent to the Senate, but he is apprehensive about getting the six Democratic votes in the Senate to reach the 60-vote mark, enough to override a presidential veto, which would be likely.
Jenkins said it has been clear that the Obama Administration supports strict environmental regulations with the eventual goal of ending the use of fossil fuels as energy sources.
“The agencies (under the current administration) can run wild,” he said, a situation that is difficult to stop but the Reins Act would change that as any proposed new regulations would be evaluated by Congress and their impact on jobs and the costs of implementation would be considered before approval.
“That piece of legislation would make a big difference,” he said.
Jenkins said he is concerned that if Hillary Clinton is elected, a tough fight on regulations will continue to lie ahead.
“There is no mystery (on where she stands on environmental regulations),” he said, referring to a statement she made about putting coal miners out of work. “She agrees with all the things Obama has done.”
That “war on coal” continues to hurt West Virginia, he said, including state and county budgets and retired coal miners.
“Jobs fund their retirement plans,” he said. “Health benefits will be cut off. These unfunded liabilities have exploded because of the war on coal.”
Jenkins said fighting unnecessary and cumbersome regulations must be done to protect jobs, and he will not be deterred by politics.
“I’m willing to work with anybody (on this issue),” he said. “I work across party lines.”
Bringing much needed money to southern West Virginia is a priority as well, he added.
An analogy he uses is shoveling coal (federal money) into a furnace that is creating jobs.
In his position on the appropriations committee, he said that is exactly what he intends to through those agencies that he works with closely.
Jenkins, who spent three terms in the state House of Delegates and three terms in the state Senate before being elected to Congress in 2014, said his legislative experience has taught him how the process works.
“We are going to keep the pressure on,” he said.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com