Hastings takes latest shot at getting Interior answers on stream rule

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., sent a Feb. 22 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as part of a long-running effort staged by the GOP majority on the committee to get answers from Interior on a planned stream buffer zone rule that would impact the coal industry.

The GOP majority has been looking into the Obama Administration’s decision to throw out the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone coal regulation, put out in the last days of the George W. Bush Administration, and write a new regulation that they said could destroy up to 7,000 coal mining jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states. Interior is now facing renewed lawsuits from environmental litigants who are demanding that it continue its “war on coal and complete its economically disastrous regulation,” said a Feb. 22 statement from the GOP majority.

“Over the last two years, this Committee has sent 9 letters to the Department and not a single deadline has been met. In April and May of 2012, the Department received two subpoenas for the production of documents. Not one single line item in either subpoena has been complied with,” wrote Hastings to Salazar. “With the lawsuits being renewed by the environmental organizations, pressuring the Department to rush through an already bizarre rulemaking process, it is now more important than ever that the Department disclose all documents and information the Committee has sought for two years regarding President Obama’s decision to discard a science based coal production rule and implement a new, job destroying regulation.”

As the Natural Resources Committee enters into its third year investigating the initiation of the rulemaking process, the department has yet to fully comply with any the committee’s requests for documents, information or updates on process and procedure, said the letter. The Feb. 22 letter specifically asks Interior to promptly provide an update on the progress of the coal regulation, including the following information:

  • What is the status of OSM’s work on the Stream Protection Rule? Is the Environmental Impact Statement for rule completed? Is the Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Stream Protection Rule completed? When does OSM anticipate proposing the Stream Protection Rule?
  • How much money has been spent to date on this rulemaking effort?
  • How many staff are currently assigned to this rulemaking effort full time?
  • How many staff were assigned to this rulemaking effort between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012?
  • Any and all communication between Interior and any of the following organizations between Dec. 1, 2008, and the present: National Parks Conservation Association, Coal River Mountain Watch, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Sierra Club, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Waterkeeper Alliance and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
  • Copies of any and all contracts, agreement, or scope of work documents related to the Environmental Impact Statement or Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Stream Protection Rule, including any contracts with third-party contractors or subcontractors contracted to work on the rule.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.