House committee blasts Obama on rewrite process of mining rule

The House Natural Resources Committee is kicking off its 2014 agenda next week with a hearing spotlighting President Obama's "war on coal."

The committee said the oversight hearing will dive into a recent report released by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG), which probed the administration's process of rewriting a 2008 stream protection rule.

The rewrite allows the Interior Department to toughen regulations on mountaintop removal coal mining projects in Appalachia.

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The Interior's OIG report, released late last month, details the decision by Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to have contractors change a variable in determining the impacts associated with the new rule after the first method used by the contractors found "there would be high costs to the industry and significant job losses."

The Office of Surface Mining and the contractors said the change in methods would result in a "less accurate number," according to the OIG report.

"Those contractors were dismissed after it was publically revealed that the Administration’s new proposed regulation would cost 7,000 jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states," according to the statement by the Natural Resources Committee.

In November, the committee passed a bill that would block the administration's stream protection rule.

"The Administration has spent five years and over $9 million taxpayer dollars working on this rewrite, but has failed to even publish a draft rule," the committee said.

The Office of Management and Budget found both methods to be "acceptable," the OIG report said. The draft rule is due out this year.