Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has unveiled legislation aimed at forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expedite the process for coal companies seeking permits to open new mines.
McConnell told about 100 people gathered inside a mining equipment sales shop in Pikeville that he intends to file the legislation next week in response to thousands of jobs that have been lost in the Kentucky coalfields.
Some 4,000 coal miners have been idled over the past year, largely the result of market factors. But McConnell accused the EPA of worsening the situation by stonewalling the permitting process, essentially turning it into "a backdoor means to shut down coal mines permanently."
U.S. Rep. Shelly Capito, a West Virginia Republican, has said she will introduce similar legislation in the House.