WHEELING — As a new administration takes office, several state attorneys general say they’re trying to save the coal mining industry by filing a lawsuit they hope will revoke the outgoing Obama Administration’s Stream Protection Rule.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine were among the attorneys general from 13 states who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed this week. They say the rule is illegal because it oversteps states’ regulatory powers over coal mines. If it’s not stopped, the rule could “drastically reduce — if not eliminate — coal mining across large portions of West Virginia,” according to a news release from Morrisey’s office.
The rule, according to the release, prohibits any change to land and environment around coal mines, subjecting longwall mining to unrealistic standards and interfering with states’ ability to regulate many mining activities.
Morrisey said the rule “tramples on states’ authority, and we believe that the (Obama) administration has failed to address the states’ concerns about how these areas are regulated.”
Congress’ Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act gives states the primary, regulatory powers over coal mining, Morrisey said.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to “vacate the rule, prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule and remand the case so the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining can issue a new rule that complies with the Surface Mining Act and the U.S. Constitution.”
The rule was issued Dec. 20, and took effect Thursday, the eve of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The timing “we believe is just wrong,” as it begins during one administration and continues through the next administration’s transition, Morrisey said.
Besides West Virginia and Ohio, the other plaintiffs are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
The lawsuit marks the first time in recent memory that attorneys general have sued the Department of the Interior, Morrisey said, noting usually they file lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Since the rule was issued, the group of attorneys general has been researching and putting together a case that could be resolved three ways: in court; administratively after the plaintiffs have urged the Trump transition team to “signal that this rule is illegal”; or through Congress.
“We’re going to keep pushing as hard as we can” to get the rule reversed, Morrisey said.
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