The House Natural Resources Committee said July 16 that it has confirmed that, after months of trying, Office of Surface Mining Director Joseph Pizarchik will testify at a July 19 oversight hearing on the status of the Interior Department’s rewrite of the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone rule.
The GOP majority on the commission said in a statement that the Obama Administration’s new version of the buffer zone rule could cost thousands of jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states. The GOP also noted that the Department has failed to respond to Congressional subpoenas for documents on the rewrite. Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., invited Pizarchik and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the hearing.
“The Committee expects answers at this hearing,” said Hastings. “The Department has largely stonewalled the Committee’s investigation into the Administration’s highly unorthodox and questionable rulemaking process that could leave thousands of hardworking Americans unemployed. Director Pizarchik should be prepared to fully and completely answer questions regarding the Department’s refusal to comply with the two subpoenas for documents, the current status of the rulemaking, and the Department’s failure to abide by its voluntary court settlement agreement to complete the rule rewrite by the end of last month.”
The 2008 rule, issued in the last days of the George W. Bush Administration, is a relatively industry-friendly rule that allows the placement of rock and soil from mine sites within 100-foot buffer zones around streams. The ability to place this material is particularly critical to the coal industry in mountainous areas like Central Appalachia. Interior and OSM had more recently proposed a tougher version of the rule.