Saturday, May 9, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Energy Issues in Congress

Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter discusses three energy issues currently in Congress:

"Protecting Coal Miners
The Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) has published a proposed Black Lung Benefits Act rule which, according to a press release, would give “…coal miners greater access to their health records and [require] coal miner owners to pay all benefits due in a claim before the award can be challenged through modification.”  This proposed rule has been noted in various press reports, and has also been brought to my attention by a Ninth District resident.

I believe it is necessary for miners and the coal companies to each have full access to all of the medical evaluations in a given case, and commend the Department of Labor for this proposed rule.  I expressed my support in a May 1 letter I sent to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

This proposed rule is especially important for miners without proper legal representation who would have a difficult time navigating the discovery process and who, accordingly, may have incomplete information when making their case.

Additionally, it would allow both sides in a claims case to utilize each other’s medical experts and evaluations as one of the pieces of evidence they can submit in the case.  By allowing all parties access to and the right to use the best evidence, we will ensure that cases are decided with the fullness of evidence.

It goes without saying that coal miners perform a difficult, thankless job to provide the energy that keeps our lights on.  As they are exposed to coal and other dust in the line of duty, we have an obligation to ensure that they are taken care of and can successfully obtain the benefits they have earned under the Black Lung Benefits Act.  If you would like to submit to OWCP your thoughts on this proposed rule, you may do so on the Federal Register website, https://www.federalregister.gov, under document number 2015-09573.

Protecting Ratepayers and States

On April 29, my colleagues and I on the Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Ratepayer Protection Act (H.R. 2042), legislation I introduced along with Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN).  Notably, this bipartisan bill has earned the support of the United Mine Workers of America.

Among other things, the common-sense Ratepayer Protection Act would allow for completion of judicial review of any final rule in the Environmental Protection Agency’s expensive, burdensome, and unreasonable ‘Clean Power Plan’ before states are required to comply with its implementation if the state’s governor has determined it would significantly harm energy reliability or affordability.

I commend those such as my friend Patrick Morrissey, the Attorney General of West Virginia, who are working to see that our court system has its say on the crucial question of the legality of the ‘Clean Power Plan.’  I am convinced, based on the law and prior court opinions, that EPA does not have authority to enact its ‘Clean Power Plan’ under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  Regardless, the courts ought to weigh in before states implement and those who pay an electric bill are required to spend a significant amount of money as a result of this proposed plan.  Committee passage of the Ratepayer Protection Act is an important step toward safeguarding ratepayers from increased rates as the court cases proceed.

Protecting Coalfield Jobs

I am disappointed with the Governor’s veto of Senate bill 1161 and House bill 1879, matching bills which would extend the sunset on the coalfield employment tax credit.  I agree with Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), who was quoted in the Bristol Herald Courier as saying, “I think it’s unfortunate in these tough times the governor would veto such an important bill.”  He continued, “We have another year of the tax credit left so we’ll have to fight for it again next year.”

Between the President’s war on coal, the EPA’s regulations, and now the Governor of Virginia, no wonder the coal industry is suffering so.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives. "