Coal officials join agencies that regulate industry
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.”