Fudging results with jobs at stake is no laughing matter
By Jim Waters
Have you heard the one about the analysts bullied by a powerful president to change their findings that a proposed clean water regulation by the federal government would cost 7,000 American coal miners their jobs?
The punch line: The firms employing the analysts who refused to “soften” their numbers have been told “the contract would not be renewed,” according to testimony offered during a congressional hearing in Washington by Steve Gardner, president of ECSI, a Kentucky consulting firm and one of the project’s subcontractors.
Why? Because when the unemployment rate is higher in America’s premier coal-producing states than even the nationwide rate, telling 7,000 coal miners they are going to have to stand in the unemployment line is especially bad for business … reelection business, that is.
Gardner’s testimony contains too many details to simply dismiss these contractors-turned-whistleblowers’ claims as “sour grapes.”
For example, he testified that after the technical experts initially offered their conclusions about the job losses the nation’s coal industry would suffer as a result of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s plans to regulate mining near waterways, the administration instructed them to “revisit” the matter and use different assumptions that “obviously lead to a lesser impact.”
Obama’s environmental statists didn’t like the initial conclusions, so they told the analysts to concoct different ones. But those analysts “unanimously refused,” Gardner said.
He went a step further and explained in detail how the Obama administration pressured the analysts to operate from the assumption that a Bush-era 2008 mining regulation was in effect even though it is not.
So, who do you believe?
This administration, who, if beating up on a Bush-era regulation makes them look better will pound on it all day long, but which also is just as willing to use – to its benefit – the same regulation to “soften” bad news if that’s politically beneficial?
Or, do you believe technical experts hired to do a job and when the results did not politically benefit the administration stood by their work – like professionals do – and were kicked out but still willing to blow the whistle?
I’m putting my money on the experts for several reasons.
First, while Joseph Pizarchik, director of the surface mining office, accused Gardner and the other subcontractors of lying, he did so “without going into specifics,” according to published reports. Yet those who worked on the project offered specifics to support their claims.
Also factored into my view is this administration’s default anti-coal position. Even before he was elected, Obama openly spoke on the campaign trail about “bankrupting” coal-fired plants. What happened to these analysts fits tightly with the president’s ideology on energy in general and coal in particular.
Finally, even Obama-supporting Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear castigates Washington for its regulatory absurdity.
Beshear was bamboozled after negotiating for eight months with the EPA to get the administration to approve some of the more than 100 coal-mining permits it has delayed. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson falsely assured the governor that those permits would be approved.
“Kentucky has experienced tremendous frustration over the uncertainty and overreaching policies of the EPA surrounding the Clean Water Act,” Beshear wrote in a recent letter to President Obama.
When you consider that this administration’s refusal to approve those permits is hindering the creation of hundreds of new jobs along with the fact that it has placed under siege an industry that provides coal miners an average weekly wage of $1,200, it makes Obama’s claims that he is a “a warrior for the middle class” the real joke here.
And a really bad one at that.
— Jim Waters is vice president of communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market
think tank. Reach him at email@example.com. Read previously published columns at