Changing the Rules

No state in the country suffered to the degree West Virginia did last year, when it comes to an economy so stagnant even Barack Obama has to admit it continues to stumble and stall. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said this week that in 2013, personal income in our state grew by the lowest rate in the nation, at 1.5 percent. (As an aside: Consumer prices rose by 1.5 percent in 2013, too, according to a Labor Department report.)

It will come as no surprise that, according to the report, West Virginia was hurt by declines in mining, durable goods manufacturing and construction. What may come as a surprise is that the mining figure includes numbers for oil and natural gas extraction. The hit our state has taken in the War on Coal has been so great, it has negated any gains from its natural gas boom.

Just a couple of days ago, the Environmental Protection Agency won another battle in that war, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of a ruling that – bizarrely – said the EPA was within its rights to retroactively veto a permit issued four years earlier by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine in Logan County. How can any company attempt to grow knowing the Obama administration’s EPA could retroactively revoke its permits?

“Invalidating a permit years after it is issued sets a bad precedent for not only mining, but any business that relies on permits to operate,” said U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. “How many banks would loan money to a manufacturer or a small business knowing that the EPA could do the same?”

Changing the rules in the middle of the game is cheating, as any child will tell. But in this case, it seems, the cheaters are winning because they have the full backing of the officiating crew. West Virginians are losing, and statistic after statistic proves it.

While national average income growth fell from 4.2 percent in 2012 to 2.6 percent last year, 27 states were supporting Arch Coal’s fight against the EPA. Those other states are painfully aware the attack being weathered in West Virginia has spread to them, too. With more than half the country beginning to understand the degree to which we are all being abused, clearly it is time to change the rules back.