Supreme Court inaction should spur in-state action - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Supreme Court inaction should spur in-state action

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week it will not review a case involving the Arch Coal Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal mine. This case has been in the courts for years, after the Environmental Protection Agency revoked part of a permit that had already been issued for the mine. 

Throughout the process, each side has claimed victory, but the decision this week likely puts an end to what has been a rather peculiar affair. To recap, the EPA approved what would have been the state's largest mountaintop removal mine, but later revoked the permits for what the agency claimed were environmental reasons. Some celebrated the decision, claiming the EPA was doing the right thing. Others questioned the legitimacy of the move, deriding the EPA for pulling an "end-around" on Congress and launching what would be a major salvo in the so-called war on coal. 

By all accounts, Arch was doing what it was supposed to do from a regulatory standpoint, yet the company got blindsided by a rule change because coal is unpopular with some in Washington, D.C. That's unfair, but the question is now academic. The court has taken a pass and we can only presume investors will be even less inclined to do business in West Virginia. Risk is part of the process, but when the game is changed at halftime, it leaves far too many entrepreneurs on the sidelines. 

This decision just further proves two things. 

Our state has to embrace industries other than those that harvest natural resources. We are blessed with coal, natural gas and timber, but our economy remains stagnant. Many of our best and brightest are forced to go to Charlotte, Pittsburgh or Columbus to earn a living. For years, our elected leaders were immune to this fact because state coffers were flush with money from gambling and severance taxes. As we saw during the most recent budget process, those heady days are in our past. 

The U.S. Supreme Court decision is a reminder that West Virginia needs an intermediary court for a guaranteed right of appeal. This idea has been swatted away by the current makeup of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, who claim it's unnecessary, but the State Supreme Court strikes fear in the hearts of both business and investors alike.

Now is the time to develop a tax code that does not penalize investment, to ensure our courts put fairness over ideology and make sure our young people are prepared for life in a global economy. There will be much hand-wringing about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision from the folks in Charleston. They will shake their fists at the EPA and the White House. Their talk is mostly cheap, so we will hear plenty of it. Just as the song goes, we'd prefer to see a little less conversation and a little more action to create a better West Virginia.