GOP hits Obama administration over coal mining rule

GOP hits Obama administration over coal mining rule
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Members of a House Natural Resources Committee panel on Wednesday peppered a top Obama administration official with complaints over a proposed coal mining rule.

Republicans said the Office of Surface Mining has shut states out of the rule-making process for its stream protection rule, a regulation designed to strengthen buffer zones around waterways where coal mining and mining waste is prohibited.

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Rep. Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyHouse GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation MORE (R-W.Va.), who has introduced a bill to delay the rule, quoted his state’s governor, who has previously complained that the OSM “misplaced and ignored” its input on the rule.

“If you’re supposed to be working with the states, how does one do that when your actions prompted nine of the 11 states impacted to withdraw from your program?” he asked Joseph Pizarchik, the director of the OSM, noting the states that have decided to pull out of the rule-making process.

Pizarchik said he has offered those states the chance to return to the process, but they declined. More broadly, he said, the OSM has taken those states’ concerns into account while writing the rule.

“From our standpoint, the states have had significant input into the draft [environmental impact statement] and the rulemaking process,” he said. “The experience the states have demonstrated with the work they have done has been very influential in informing what is in this rule.”

The OSM’s stream rule is more than six years in the making, and it’s been a source of angst for the coal industry and Republicans for a long time.

States have complained that the OSM did not provide them enough of a chance to comment on the rule, while industry groups warn it will destroy jobs and hamstring their ability to mine coal.

Republicans have voiced that concern while trying to block the regulation.

“If the OSM really cared about economic development, it would stop pushing job killing regulations like the stream protection rule and let these hardworking Americans get back to doing what they are good at: providing the nation with the energy that made it a world power,” Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornHouse GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans MORE (R-Colo.) said Wednesday.

Democrats, though, have defended the rule as an important step toward protecting natural resources and public health. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said the OSM has a duty to update its buffer zone rule, something it hasn’t done for three decades.

“This new rule is definitely overdue, and I think it’s an extremely important rule both for the environment and the health of the communities that have these mines in their backyards,” he said Wednesday.