Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Shelley Moore (R-WV) and House Republicans from Ohio and West Virginia introduced a joint resolution of disapproval to overturn President Obama’s Stream Protection Rule.
The new rule is an update to the Stream Buffer Zone Rule and imposes new restrictions on surface coal mining near waterways. It was issued by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in late December, weeks before President Obama left office.
The regulation was immediately challenged in court by North Dakota and the Murray Energy Corporation, and nearly a dozen more states in a separate lawsuit, because it requires additional data gathering and monitoring around mine sites, and imposes new financial reclamation requirements for states.
Congressional Republicans argue that the Stream Protection Rule is a drastic overreach of the federal government that unfairly targets America’s coal industry and jobs. The introduction of the resolution is the formal kickoff campaign for conservation lawmakers to remove “burdensome” environmental regulations using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
The CRA is a law that allows Congress to block executive action within the first 60 days of a new legislative session. It takes a simple majority in both the House and Senate to undo any last-minute regulations signed by the previous administration. With a majority in both chambers, Republicans can pass a joint resolution of disapproval and send it to President Trump to sign, thereby nullifying the rule.
The 60 day countdown begins this week, so Republicans and environmental groups are taking swift action. Once the joint resolution is introduced, it can move quickly to the President’s office because the law only allows up to 10 hours of debate in the House. The Senate cannot filibuster.
The Stream Protection Rule provides several protections to the water supply of local communities surrounded by coal mining operations. Mountaintop removal mining is one of the most damaging forms of coal mining and is responsible for destroying nearly 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia. Studies show that this form of mining leads to cancer, birth defects, asthma and poor health; in addition to threatening scarce water resources in arid regions of the country.
This new protection rule is needed to ensure that our communities have the information and tools needed to hold polluters accountable for damage done to its people, wildlife and livelihood.
A coalition of conservation and environmental justice groups have come together to defend the Stream Protection Rule and uphold its new safeguards.
What is the Stream Protection Rule?
The Stream Protection Rule was developed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to “to avoid or minimize impacts on surface water, groundwater, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources” from coal mining.
The rule requires companies to:
The regulation is controversial because it opens up on how to define “hydrologic balance” and how monitoring practices should be done.
Environmental advocates believe the rule wasn’t stringent enough because it didn’t fully restrict the dumping of debris or address the most destructive mining practices, but applauded the rule for making it more difficult for companies to pollute streams.
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