U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, II, a West Virginia native who represents his state’s Third Congressional District, currently serves as the Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and served the last four years as the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, on which he was a Member for 34 years.
First elected in 1976, Rahall is currently serving his 18th term in the House of Representatives, and is recognized as the youngest elected longest serving member in the history of the House. He has received national recognition for his strong dedication to protecting and preserving our nation’s environment, while continuing to provide employment and tourism opportunities for our citizens
Born and raised in southern West Virginia and molded by his family’s strong work ethic, generous spirit, and unwavering faith in God and Country, Congressman Rahall is committed to working in Congress to improve the lives of southern West Virginians and to ensure a bright future for generations of West Virginians to come.
For more than 30 years, he has built a strong record of supporting and championing the causes most important to his fellow West Virginians. He is a Congressional leader on mining-related issues; a veteran of every Federal Highway bill since coming to Congress; an outspoken advocate for our nation’s men and women in uniform; our veterans; access to affordable healthcare and education; West Virginia values, and protecting our lands and of our way of life.
Recognized for his dedicated efforts to promote the diversification of southern West Virginia’s economic base through his “three Ts” agenda – Transportation, Technology and Tourism – Rahall remains steadfast in his belief that a more secure America begins here, at home, by properly investing in our police departments, our fire departments, our communities’ infrastructures, and by launching economic initiatives that build opportunities and strengthen southern West Virginia.
Rahall was a key architect in the formulation of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (known as TEA 21). In that bill, he established the Rahall Transportation Institute (RTI), a consortium of five Southern West Virginia colleges, housed at Marshall University. Soon after, Rahall helped RTI win designation as a National Maritime Enhancement Institute, enabling the school to compete for federal grants related to a great number of maritime activities. This is one of only seven so-named universities in the nation, further advancing RTI’s mission of “Building Jobs through Transportation” for West Virginia.
Rahall has also taken on the cause of greater protections for coalfield citizens by spear-heading legislation on multiple occasions to extend the Abandoned Mine Reclamation program, now law, which provides funds to combat health, safety and environmental threats from old mine sites. In the course of this effort, provisions were included to allow these funds to be used for public water supply systems in the coalfields as well as to help finance health care for retired coal miners. Rahall additionally gained enactment of provisions to provide coalfield citizens with protections from subsidence caused by underground coal mining.
In 2006, Rahall worked to ensure passage of legislation that extended authorization of the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program. Legislation ensured a continuing flow of money to West Virginia and other states to support reclamation of abandoned coal mine properties. Extension of the AML program was essential in protecting the health and safety of coal community residents. Also importantly, the measure ensured ongoing funding for the Combined Benefits Fund, a program that has long guaranteed health care benefits for retired miners and their dependents.
Also in 2006, following the tragedies at Sago and Aracoma mines in West Virginia, Rahall was instrumental in guiding landmark mining safety legislation through Congress. The MINER Act includes requirements for more oxygen to be made available to trapped and escaping miners. It calls immediately for redundant communications devices to link miners underground with rescuers on the surface, and it requires two-way telecommunications and tracking devices to be in the mines by mid-2009. It also calls for fines to be levied on mines that fail to timely report accidents, a provision that has already been put to use by Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The same year, Rahall worked to bring together a $4 million statewide mine safety and technology consortium, to be housed at WVU Technical and Community College. The Mine Safety Technology Consortium will be a catalyst to transforming West Virginia coal mining, know-how, skills and capabilities to produce superior coal mine safety and health technology, products and services, including training technologies.
Rahall’s work on the Natural Resources Committee, however, has not all been related to mining. He has received national recognition for his strong dedication to protecting and preserving our nation’s environment, while continuing to provide employment and tourism opportunities for our citizens.
He is the author of the 1978 legislation, which established the New River Gorge National River as a unit of the National Park System in southern West Virginia. Ten years later he gained enactment of legislation to designate the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River, in the process creating the largest network of federally protected rivers in the eastern United States. Rahall legislation also established the National Coal Heritage Area in 11 southern West Virginia counties.
Rahall championed the House passage of H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would put a stop to the commercial slaughter of American horses for foreign consumption. Rahall was also leader in the effort to end royalty holidays and giveaways to big oil and gas companies who reaped record profits, while American taxpayers continued to experience skyrocketing gas prices and has worked to promote America’s energy independence and the use of clean coal technologies to achieve this feat. He introduced the Coal to Liquid Fuel Energy Act of 2006 in an effort to encourage investment in coal liquefaction.
Rahall’s commitment to the Southern Highlands Initiative has helped to support the development and location of new industrial and business parks in each of the southern coalfield counties. His dedication to promoting high technology development is also clear through his establishment of the Connected Technology Corridors Program. Working with local community and economic development leaders, the Congressman has consistently encouraged a sustainable approach to economic development, one that focuses on the advance of small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises along major transportation corridors such as Interstate 64 and 77. To help foster new business development, Rahall has secured millions of dollars for the construction of new Technology Centers at Concord University, the Greenbrier Valley Airport in Lewisburg, the Raleigh County Airport near Beckley, and in Hinton.
Numerous state and national organizations have recognized Rahall for his work. On environmental issues, he is the recipient of the 1997 Citizen’s Coal Council award, the 1996 “Keeper of the Flame Award” presented in 1996 by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the 1990 “Friend of the Earth Award” for his work on protecting the coalfield environment, the Sierra Club’s 1988 “Seneca Award” for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship, American River’s 1988 “River Conservation Award,” the Ansel Adams Award from the Wilderness Society in 2004, and the Mountaineer Conservation Leadership Award from the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition on Earth Day 2005.
A 33rd degree Mason, Rahall is a life member of the National Rifle Association, Elks, Moose, and the NAACP, and was made an honorary member of the United Mine Workers of America in 2003. Before his election to Congress, he made a career as a businessman and served as staff assistant for U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. He is married to the former Melinda Ross of Ashland, Kentucky; has three children: Rebecca, Nick Joe, III, and Suzanne Nicole; and three grandchildren.