Opinion

Coal ash bill a U.S. Senate test

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision to seek re-election rather than run for governor is good news for West Virginians. How good? We may know soon.

Manchin, D-W.Va., would have been a formidable candidate had he chosen to leave the Senate and run for governor in the 2016 election. His two previous terms as the state’s chief executive left him quite popular among voters. His outspoken defense of constituents’ interests in the Senate has added to the esteem in which many in our state hold him.

During much of his time in Washington, Manchin has expressed frustration about not being able to get important things accomplished. But he now believes that has changed, he told reporters on Monday.

A test in that regard may be heading toward the Senate.

Among the most illogical attempts the Environmental Protection Agency has made to cripple the coal and electric power industries was a plan to regulate coal ash as toxic waste. It is generated in large quantities at coal-fired power plants.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., led the charge against the EPA’s coal ash plan. He pointed out the substance is used in a variety of products, including drywall and concrete.

After McKinley exposed the absurdity of the EPA’s plan, the agency backed away. Officials there now say a more reasonable coal ash plan will be implemented.

McKinley wants to ensure that is so. To that end, he has introduced legislation to curb EPA power over coal ash rules.

But in both the 112th and 113th congresses, similar measures were approved by the House of Represenatives, only to die in the Senate.

With bipartisan support, a new McKinley bill seems poised for approval in the House. It will go then to the Senate, where Manchin’s belief a less partisan, more flexible atmosphere prevails will be tested.

Manchin and Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., should take the lead in pressing fellow senators to approve the measure without delay. Its fate in the Senate – then, it is to be hoped, the White House – will say much about whether Manchin’s hopes are based on reality.

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