President Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation repealing a regulation finalized in the final weeks of the Obama administration that would have severely restricted coal mining in Appalachia.
Both chambers of Congress passed resolutions under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) repealing an Interior Department rule on coal mine discharge into nearby streams.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to rollback federal regulations targeting coal mining. Trump said he’d sign the repeal bill because he’s “committed to reviving America’s coal mining communities, which have been hurting for too long.”
Trump said in a statement that the $1.2 billion Stream Protection Rule “duplicates existing protections in the Clean Water Act and is unnecessary given the other Federal and State regulations already in place.”
The Senate passed the CRA repealing the Stream Protection Rule Thursday afternoon. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joined Republicans in supporting the rule’s repeal. The House passed a CRA on the rule Wednesday.
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) February 2, 2017
Environmentalists –obviously– oppose repealing the Stream Protection Rule, saying the rule protects streams from coal mine pollution.
“Regulatory safeguards that keep our air and water safe from toxic pollution are crafted using a democratic process and based on the best available science”, Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, said in a statement.
But Republicans said environmentalists only like the rule because it effectively bans coal mining in much of Appalachia. They also say the rule was written behind closed doors with little input from states.
“I have led the fight against this rule since my first days in the Senate because it simply isn’t common sense and kills jobs in our state,” Manchin said in a statement. “I am glad we were able to come together to pass this commonsense reversal of these harmful Obama-era regulations.”
From the beginning, the Stream Protection Rule was plagued by problems.
The Obama administration released the Stream Protection Rule in December 2016, after spending 7 years crafting the rule. It was meant to replace the Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone rule.
The Obama administration hired a new contractor to redo an environmental review conducted by the Bush administration in 2008.
The Interior Department, however, fired the contractor after the Associated Press found the stream rule would result in 7,000 coal mine job losses and hurt production in 22 states.
Congress got involved, even subpoenaing Interior for records on its rulemaking process. Administration officials consistently refused to provide lawmakers with all the records they requested.
Eight states withdrew from agreements they had with Interior to cooperate on the rule because the Obama administration wouldn’t share information, and 19 states sent a letter to the Interior Department asking they update them on the rule. The letter was ignored.
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