National Mining Assn. says stream rule will add new costs for little benefit

A new Obama Administration regulation—called the Stream Protection Rule—is about to drive up energy costs and unemployment with no gain in environmental benefits, said the National Mining Association, which represents major U.S. coal producers, in an Oct. 27 statement.

“The primary motive of this regulation is not to protect streams, as its title would suggest, but to protect federal regulators’ jobs at the expense of coal miners’ jobs as the nation’s energy providers,” said Luke Popovich, vice president of communications for the National Mining Association.

The rule restricts the rock and soil from mine sites that can be placed in buffer zones around streams – and there are many streams around mine sites in some parts of the country, like Central Appalachia.

In a classic example of needless regulation, the NMA said the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) plans to change more than 475 regulations, as well as add more new rules, despite no demonstrated need. OSM has crafted the rule behind closed doors, Popovich said, shutting cooperating states out of discussions about the purpose and content of the regulation.

The proposed new rule carries a heavy economic price tag, Popovich warned. He pointed to an analysis by an independent consultant that found that OSM’s rule would put more than 268,000 mining and dependent jobs at risk—adding to the 40,000 high-wage jobs already lost in the industry. According to this independent study, that loss also means less money for communities—in this case, at least $5 billion less in federal and state revenues. The rule also would jeopardize access to as much as 63% of the nation’s recoverable coal reserves, leaving affordable energy untapped, and increasing electricity costs for families.

“In 2011, President Obama issued an executive order laying out the ground rules for improving federal regulation and review,” Popovich said. “OSM has ignored all of those guidelines by moving ahead without an open exchange of ideas, without considering economic impacts, and without offering a scientific rationale for why the new regulations are necessary. In response, most state agencies have terminated their role in this rulemaking.”

He added: “Ironically, OSM’s own reviews show that mining-companies are overwhelmingly in compliance with current standards. In fact, the agency admitted it had already decided to issue this rule five years before it conducted the study to determine the need for it.”

In September OSM had announced that the formal public comment period for the proposed Stream Protection Rule, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that supports the proposed rule, and the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that provides analysis of each alternative considered, was extended until Oct. 26.

The Interior Dept. and OSM announced the proposed rule on July 16. “We have already received several comments that make it clear that many people have read the proposed rule and the associated DEIS and RIA,” said OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik. “The additional time will ensure that everyone will have more than enough time to evaluate the documents we provided earlier this summer.”

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.