House Votes to Overturn Stream Protection Rule

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure on February 1, that will nullify the Stream Protection Rule that was finalized by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement on December 20. The rule addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater and the productivity of mining operation sites.

The House approved the measure, 228-194, with nine Republicans voting against the repeal and four Democrats supporting it.

The legislation was brought forth by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). After introducing the bill, he said, “Make no mistake about it, this Obama administration rule is not designed to protect streams. Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business — by issuing duplicative and overly burdensome regulations, and preempting state agencies that have historically been tasked with regulating America’s coal industry.”

The final rule updated the 33-year-old regulations with stronger requirements for surface coal mining operations. The rule would require companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation, unless that would conflict with the implemented land use. The rule requires the testing and monitoring of the condition of streams that might be affected by mining — before, during and after their operations — to provide baseline data that ensures operators can detect and correct problems that could arise, and restore mined areas to their previous condition.

An identical resolution has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the help of West Virginia Sen. Shelly Moore Capito.

As featured in Womp 2017 Vol 02 -