Coal of­fi­cials join agen­cies that reg­u­late in­dus­try

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - DARREL ROWLAND drow­land@dis­patch.com @dar­reldrow­land

The idea that the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Ohio Coal As­so­ci­a­tion is now lob­by­ing Congress as an of­fi­cial with the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency is not sit­ting well with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, Dis­patch Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau Chief Jack Torry notes.

Christian Palich, a for­mer aide to Rep. Bill John­son, R-Ma­ri­etta, works in the EPA’s con­gres­sional re­la­tions shop. The post did not re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

“We’ve gone from an al­leged ‘war on coal’ dur­ing the (Pres­i­dent Barack) Obama era to a war on breathers,” said Frank O’Donnell, pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton­based Clean Air Watch.

“And four years is a long time to try hold­ing your breath while the (Pres­i­dent Don­ald) Trump team — in­clud­ing Palich — tries to re­vive a dy­ing coal in­dus­try.”

Even be­fore he joined the Trump EPA’s pay­roll, Palich was quoted in an EPA news re­lease laud­ing Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der un­der­cut­ting Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has hon­ored his pledge to stand with en­ergy con­sumers and Ohio coal coun­try over rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists,” Palich said. “It’s a much brighter fu­ture for the coal in­dus­try as this ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to sys­tem­at­i­cally end the war on coal.”

John­son has been hon­ored by the coal group for dis­tin­guished ser­vice.

Palich was just one of sev­eral from the coal and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries named to the agen­cies that reg­u­late those same in­dus­tries, Busi­ness In­sider re­ported. The En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund cited both Palich and another Ohioan, Doug Ma­theney, ap­pointed spe­cial ad­viser for fos­sil en­ergy at the Depart­ment of En­ergy af­ter di­rect­ing the coal in­dus­try’s Count on Coal, as top ex­am­ples of those with con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Last week, Michael Cope was named in­terim pres­i­dent of the Ohio Coal As­so­ci­a­tion, re­plac­ing Palich, who be­gan work­ing for the EPA in May.

Norquist: More than tax cuts

So what was tax-cut­ting cru­sader Grover Norquist do­ing last week in Ohio?

The Buck­eye State, which the GOP has con­trolled for most of the past quar­ter­century, has been cut­ting taxes for the past dozen years, re­duc­ing in­come taxes alone by bil­lions. Yet the state has trailed the na­tional av­er­age for job growth for sev­eral years.

Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form, said Ohio still has the 19thhigh­est bur­den of state and lo­cal taxes in the coun­try.

Though Ohio has steadily trimmed the state in­come tax, “you’re com­pet­ing with nine states with zero (per­cent),” he said.

But “taxes are not the only fac­tor,” he said. “You’re com­pet­ing with 28 states that have right-to-work.”

And sev­eral states have re­pealed the re­quire­ment that pre­vail­ing wages must be paid for public projects, in­clud­ing Wis­con­sin, West Virginia, Ken­tucky and, he pre­dicts, Michi­gan this fall.

Ohio also has ap­proved tort re­form, but com­pet­ing states have gone fur­ther, Norquist said.

“They have fewer tort lawyers steal­ing ev­ery­body’s money,” was how he de­scribed it.

When asked what drives him to take such an ab­so­lutist stance on tax cut­ting, he replied, “I would ar­gue that there isn’t a state or a city or the fed­eral govern­ment that isn’t wildly spend­ing more than they need to, and, there­fore, the idea that you’d ever raise taxes to fund fail­ure strikes me as odd.”

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