GOP tries to forestall Obama’s stream buffer rule for coal mining

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., on July 25 introduced H.R. 2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act.

“This legislation would protect American jobs, save taxpayer dollars, and support U.S. energy production by stopping the Obama Administration from imposing coal regulations that would cost thousands of American jobs and devastate local economies,” said a July 25 statement from the GOP majority on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has been conducting a sweeping rewrite of a coal mining regulation called the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which was put into place in the last days of the George W. Bush Administration. The rewrite would likely impose tough new restrictions on the ability of coal companies to place rock and soil from mine sites within 100-foot buffer zones around streams.

“I am proud to be introducing the Johnson-Lamborn legislation that will save American taxpayers millions of dollars and protect thousands of coal jobs from this Administration’s assault on the coal industry,” said Johnson, who represents a coal-producing area in southeast Ohio. “Many areas of the country depend on coal mining to employ thousands of hardworking Americans; yet, the President has shown a blatant disregard for his actions against the industry. His rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule has frivolously wasted taxpayer dollars, and has put American jobs in danger. Today, we begin a legislative approach to stopping the War on Coal, and put in place regulations that are more realistic and effective for both businesses and the environment.”

“America’s vast coal resources, the largest in the world, support U.S. job creation, economic growth, and affordable energy,” said Lamborn. “However, the Obama Administration’s proposed rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule and other burdensome regulations threaten the jobs of thousands of hardworking coal miners and tens of thousands of jobs associated with the industry. And while coalminers are losing their jobs, the regulatory uncertainty created by the Obama Administration is stifling investment and leaving states to issue permits under outdated laws. Much of the blame for uncertainty and job losses lies with the Administration’s arbitrary decision to throw out 2008 coal mining rule and instead embark on a re-write that has been secretive, reckless and has already wasted $9 million of taxpayer money. Our legislation will stop the Administration from implementing their job-destroying rewrite and restore certainty to the industry, lower energy costs, and create jobs. I hope to advance this legislation quickly and plan to hold a legislative hearing on the bill next week.”

The bill requires that the states put into their mine programs the 2008 Bush-era version of the buffer rule, then the Interior Dept., which oversees the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, has to report back to the House and Senate in five years about the effectiveness of the state programs. Interior can’t impose any new rules until that report is in.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will hold a hearing on this legislation on Aug. 2.

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.