Backers applaud House passage of bill to kill OSM’s stream rule

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn on Jan 12 released a statement urging Congress to support The Stream Act (HR 1644) by Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., which would protect coal miners from the so-called Stream Protection Rule (SPR) offered by the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSM).

The bill passed the House on Jan. 12, but faces a threatened veto by President Barack Obama that Congress is likely to be unable to override.

“Thousands of Americans in coal communities throughout the country will be grateful to Rep. Mooney and his colleagues for blocking the SPR, the latest Obama administration attempt to destroy their livelihoods,” said Quinn. “This massive rule will surely add to the 40,000 jobs already lost in the nation’s coal industry during this administration.

“The SPR is a rule without a purpose, proposed by an agency with a declining mission and little credibility. OSM’s own data show more than 90 percent of mining operations carry no off-site impacts. State agencies affirm the rule isn’t needed, which suggests why OSM deliberately dodged its obligation to consult them in the rule’s development. OSM even invents legal authority it doesn’t have in order to duplicate environmental oversight already entrusted to other agencies.

“Press reports quote an OSM official as acknowledging ‘a lot of pressure to get this done’ in the administration’s last year, even though the rule entails changes to 475 regulations and the destruction of thousands of high wage jobs. If Congress is serious about eliminating foolish, duplicative and costly regulation, there is no better place to start than by supporting Rep. Mooney’s bill.”

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said Jan. 12 that he helped to pass this legislation, which cleared the House on a 235-188 vote. “Each and every day, President Obama’s EPA and the Office of Surface Mining are regulating coal mines out of business and putting miners on the unemployment line. Coal miners are the heart and soul of our communities in southern West Virginia, and the significant layoffs we are experiencing are heartbreaking. These agencies are out of control and must be reined in. Enough is enough. There’s no question about it – this is about jobs. It’s about good-paying jobs in West Virginia and across Appalachia,” Jenkins said.

The STREAM Act, also known as the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act, would prevent the Office of Surface Mining from implementing the stream buffer zone rule until additional scientific review is conducted. It would also require the agency to release additional information and data used to write the new regulation.

Jenkins is a cosponsor of the bill, which was introduced by Reps. Mooney, Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.

Bill Price, a Sierra Club organizer based in Charleston, W.Va., said in a Jan. 12 statement: “This is yet another heavy-handed move by Big Coal and their political allies to allow them to keep polluting without being held accountable. Mountaintop removal is responsible for the destruction of over 500 mountains and approximately 2,000 miles of streams across the diverse forests of Central Appalachia. Peer-reviewed health studies have linked mountaintop removal to numerous health problems in Appalachian communities, including higher rates of cancer, birth defects, and premature death. Similarly, longwall coal mining has de-watered streams, impacted historic structures and destroyed wells used for agriculture in Appalachia and the Midwest.

Price added: “The proposed Stream Protection Rule improves current standards that have utterly failed to prevent serious, persistent, and unmitigated environmental harm from occurring. By delaying or preventing this important rule from being finalized and implemented, the STREAM Act would put thousands of lives at risk. We now look to the Senate to do what’s right for American families and stop this bill in its tracks.”

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.