Congressional Republicans are moving swiftly to repeal Obama administration regulations aimed at better protecting streams from coal mining debris.
Coal country lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday to block the rules, which they say would kill jobs in the coal industry, which is reeling from competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.
The legislation unveiled Monday would overturn December regulations through a process that permits Congress to revoke recently-issued rules in a manner that is immune to filibusters by Senate Democrats.
The repeal measure is set for a House vote Wednesday and a Senate vote shortly thereafter.
“The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America’s coal industry,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “If this rule were allowed to stay in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities.”
The stream protection rules would be the first of several recent Obama administration regulations to be targeted by using the fast-track procedures. Former President Barack Obama easily repelled such moves with vetoes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “‘stream buffer’ rule is a harmful regulation that unfairly targets coal jobs.”
The regulations would have tightened exceptions to a rule that requires a 100-foot buffer between coal mining and streams. It also would require coal companies to restore streams and return mined areas to conditions similar to those before mining took place.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support the rules, saying they would protect people in coal country from health risks from pollutants like mercury.
Pro-industry senators among the measure’s numerous sponsors include Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
On the House side, Republican Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Bill Johnson of Ohio were among those sponsoring a resolution of disapproval concerning the Stream Protection Rule.
“This rule implemented by President Obama at the end of his term is an outrageous attack on working families in the coal industry,” McKinley said. “As chairman of the Coal Caucus, we’ve made stopping the (Stream Protection Rule) our No. 1 priority because if implemented, it could shut down more coal mines and disrupt the livelihoods of over 80,000 miners and their families.
“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” McKinley added.
Johnson, meanwhile, said voters in November “sent a clear message to Washington, D.C. that more regulation is not the answer.”
“We will both protect America’s coal jobs by stopping this rule from taking effect, and prevent the issuance of any similar rule in the future,” Johnson said.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., also was among the resolution’s sponsors.
The action comes less than two weeks after a group of 14 state attorneys general, including Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia and Mike DeWine of Ohio, sent a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., urging congressional action.
The letter states the Congressional Review Act “provides Congress the authority to take action immediately after President-elect Trump takes office to avoid the harm imposed by the (Stream Protection Rule) and protect both the states and the federal government from having to engage in potentially lengthy litigation on this subject.”
Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming also signed the Jan. 17 letter.
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- On January 31, 2017