House votes to block stream buffer rule

January 13, 2016

Implementation of the Obama Administration rule designed to protect streams around coal mining operations was delayed by the U.S. House which voted 235-188 to delay the rule until further scientific studies can be completed.

Rep. Alex Mooney’s (R-WV) introduced the bill that was approved with the help of four Democrats joining most Republicans to vote in favor. Ten Republicans voted against the bill, The Hill reported.

The bill would delay an Office of Surface Mining (OSM) regulation until it goes through future rounds of scientific review and the Obama administration releases more information about how it was developed, effectively blocking the rule. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation.

The rule in question — a proposal that is six years in the making for OSM — beefs up regulations for buffer zones around streams where coal mining and mining waste is prohibited. Republicans say the rule will hamstring the coal industry and lead to further job losses among miners, something they claim Obama regulations are already exacerbating.

“Taken together, these changes will destroy up to 77,000 coal mining jobs nationwide, including up to 52,000 in the Appalachia region,” Mooney said in a floor speech , citing an industry-backed study.

“This would be devastating to states like my home state — like West Virginia — which have already been hit hard by President Obama’s war on coal.”

Democrats countered that the concerns of the jobs are overblown and point to studies that show far fewer job losses while contending that the rule would protect public health and water quality against the controversial mountaintop removal mining process.

The House rejected a series of Democratic amendments to the bill, including those to allow the rule to move forward if it protects drinking water or to shorten the delay if it's found to contribute to long-term health problems.

The OSM rule has been a source of political angst for years. Republicans say the Interior Department has done a poor job of working with states on finalizing the rule, and many state regulators have pulled out of the consultation process, The Hill reported.

House lawmakers have previously cleared legislation blocking the rule, most recently in 2014.

The mining industry has worked hard against the rule, saying it could kill upwards of 280,000 jobs both in the coal industry and businesses supported by it.

“Thousands of Americans in coal communities throughout the country will be grateful to Rep. Mooney and his colleagues for blocking the Stream Protection Rule, the latest Obama administration attempt to destroy their livelihoods,” National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said.


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