It’s rare enough to catch a glimpse of the future. And when you do, it can occur in the most unlikely place. So it was last month with the official opening of the Running Right Leadership Academy, Alpha Natural Resources’ spanking new $23 million training center in Julian, W. Va. Some in attendance came away with the feeling they were seeing not only a marvel of engineering, but a proud new day in American mining.
If misery loves company, this past month has been good for the coal industry. Whether we mine coal, process minerals, manufacture mining machinery or provide any one of scores of mining services, few concerns unite our voices as much as the concern over regulatory overreach. After revelations that the Justice Department confiscated thousands of Associated Press phone records, even the news media is sharing our concerns and joining the chorus for federal restraint.
We can now put all that “war on coal” rhetoric aside. Today, that charge is so yesterday.
The reason it’s no longer a war on coal is because the war just got bigger. After an appellate court decision in Washington last month, the war is waged on every industry that needs a permit to build a road, dig a hole or construct a house. Can’t blame the Environmental Protection Agency this time. Thanks to federal judges sitting in Washington, any activity that disturbs nature and requires a 404 permit under the Clean Water Act is now a potential target for extinction by a federal regulator.
One day in early March official Washington shut down entirely. And not because the $85 billion sequester that threatens air traffic controllers and the White House Easter egg hunt sent federal workers home without pay. No, instead Washing-ton shut down because it was cold and rainy. Anticipating a terrible storm that was supposed to paralyze the city, the government was closed for business. The storm turned out to be a bust, the streets were clear. But federal offices were empty and the malls were full.