Surface mining rule will be reviewed by White House

March 18, 2015

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is conducting its final review of a regulation meant to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining.

The regulation from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining would change a 2008 rule issued by the Bush administration that a federal court struck down in February 2014, The Hill reported.

The OMB review is the final step before the proposal, which would also cover other forms of surface coal mining, can be made public.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell briefly mentioned the regulation on March 17 in a speech.

“Further addressing the impacts of energy development, we’re moving forward with a proposal to modernize the way coal mining operations protect community water sources, and make sure companies restore streams and forests to a healthy condition,” she said.

Environmentalists and Democrats have said the 2008 rule is too weak in protecting streams from being polluted by mining, The Hill reported. Surface mining and mountaintop removal mining both involve removing massive amounts of land and putting it elsewhere.

The District Court for the District of Columbia found last year that the government didn’t properly consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the effects of surface mining on species that live in or depend on streams. Instead, the surface mining office relied on an outdated biological assessment, the court said.

The coal mining industry and its Republican allies have fought hard against the Obama administration’s attempts to strengthen the rule, calling it part of Obama’s “war on coal.”

When the surface mining office first said it was considering changes in 2009, the National Mining Association said the effort was “jeopardizing a fragile regulatory compromise that has taken more than a decade to establish.”


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