House votes to stop Obama's new coal mining rules

March 25, 2014

The U.S. House passed the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act, H.R. 2824, on Tuesday, March 25, giving a victory to the coal mining industry.

The Hill reported that the vote passed by margin of 229-192 with support from 10 Democrats while seven Republicans opposed the measure. The bill effectively stops the Obama administration's effort to rewrite coal mining regulations, and would require the administration use a rule developed under the Bush administration that would allow the coal industry to dispose of mine waste near streams. This rule, supporters say, would protect 7,000 mining jobs.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“It’s well-known that the Obama administration has waged a long-running war on coal,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, during the House debate.

Issuance of a new so-called “stream buffer zone” rule, still being written by the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, means “thousand of Americans will be out of work and home heating costs for middle class families will rise,” Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) said.

Opponents of the bill, including Rep. John Yarmuth, (D-KY), warned that the measure ignored the long-term environmental and health impacts of coal mining in Appalachia and other regions.

The White House opposes the House bill, saying in a statement this month that the measure “inadequately protects drinking water and watersheds from strip mining.”

In February, Judge Barbara Rothstein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the Bush stream buffer zone rule, saying it did not take into account the effects of mountaintop mining on threatened and endangered species.

Neither the White House nor the Interior Department has provided details on a new rule, though it is believed the administration wants at least a 100-foot buffer between mine waste and streams.


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