House panel halts Obama administration coal mining rule

September 10, 2015

A U.S. House panel approved a bill to delay a new Obama administration coal mining buffer zone rule until it goes through external scientific review and the administration releases more of the information that went into crafting it, The Hill reported.

The STREAM Act was introduced by by Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV).

The OSM’s rule would update standards creating a buffer zone around streams where mining activities and waste are prohibited.

The Obama administration has characterized the rule, more than six years in the making, as a way to protect coal country waterways against the controversial mountaintop removal mining process. But Republicans have called it a job-killing volley in President Obama’s “war on coal.”

“In my state … the thought of losing thousands more jobs [is] unconscionable,” Mooney said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

“This newly proposed rule will not only impact coal fields in West Virginia and Appalachia, but also have widespread implications across the country.”

Republicans have slammed the rule, arguing OSM has not been transparent in its formulation and that federal officials didn’t take states’ input into consideration. Several states pulled out of the rule-writing process before officials released the proposal this July, saying the Interior Department had not asked for suggestions on the regulations.

“The OSM’s rule, much like other Interior Department proposals, lacks available, transparent, current data or science to justify the rule,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said.

Industry groups have long warned against any new regulations on mountaintop mining and said the proposed rule could put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

But Democrats say those concerns are exaggerated, noting that the administration estimates the potential job losses are negligible.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said the rule is an important way to protect public health.

He tied Republicans’ efforts to block the rule to their aggressive criticism of a mine spill caused by an Environmental Protection Agency in Colorado.



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