The Obama administration issued a controversial coal mining regulation Monday that President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump touts affordable childcare plans House Dems launch pro-broadband privacy petition Moving the point of obligation is the latest misguided ploy to undermine the RFS MORE has promised to repeal.
Finalized with barely more than a month left in Obama’s presidency, the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule aims to prevent or mitigate harm to streams and other waterways from mountaintop removal mining, among other mining practices.
It updates three-decades old standards with new requirements for how mining companies test and monitor streams and new standards for how they must restore the waterways that they damage and more.
During the presidential campaign, Trump labeled the rule as part of President Obama’s “war on coal” and promised to undo it.
But that didn’t stop the administration from going forward with a rule they have been working on for eight years, one of the first environmental regulatory efforts Obama undertook.
“The responsible rule released today represents a modern and balanced approach to meeting the nation’s energy needs,” Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellOvernight Regulation: Trump tackles 'war on coal' Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze Interior secretary reopens federal coal mining MORE said in a statement.
“Regulations need to keep pace with modern mining practices, so we worked closely with many stakeholders to craft a plan that protects water quality, supports economic opportunities, safeguards our environment and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future.”
Janice Schneider, Interior’s assistant secretary for lands and mineral management, said the new regulation “takes into account the extensive and substantive comments we received from state regulators, mining companies and local communities across the country.”
She added that officials visited mines and met with workers and nearby residents extensively in the process of writing the rule.
Interior and its Office of Surface Mining said that over the next two decades, the rule would protect 6,000 miles of stream and 52,000 acres of forests.
The League of Conservation Voters welcomed the rule and called on Trump to keep it in place.
“President-elect Trump claims he believes in 'crystal clear water,'” Madeleine Foote, the group’s legislative representative, said in a statement. “If that's true, he should stand up for safe, clean water for these communities and support this rule instead of bending to the wishes of big polluters who want to keep their free pass to poison mountain streams.”
Trump called the rule “excessive” in a September speech on his energy agenda and pledged that it would be repealed under his presidency. Last week he announced that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), a critic of the mining rule, would be his nominee for Interior secretary.
Trump would have to undertake an extensive rulemaking process to formally undo the regulation.
But since it was issued in the final months of Obama’s presidency, a simply majority of the House and Senate could quickly repeal it through the Congressional Review Act, with Trump's signature.
The industry, states and other affected parties could also sue the administration to get the rule overturned, and Trump may choose not to defend it in court.
Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate Congress should stop trying to diminish public lands The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, slammed the rule Monday and called on Trump to repeal it.
“The Obama administration jammed this futile, job-killing rule through under the wire. The only silver lining with today’s release is that their eight-year waste of taxpayer money finally comes to an end,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Trump administration to overturn this unparalleled executive overreach and implement policies that protect communities forsaken by this administration.”
The House passed a bill earlier this year from Bishop’s committee to require Interior to go back to the drawing board on the rule.
The National Mining Association had a similar response, adding that numerous states that were supposed to be involved in writing the rule left the process after they said Interior stopped working with them.
“The decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst,” said Hal Quinn, the group’s president.
“This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule’s development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans,” he said.