As I joined my congressional colleagues for the opening session of the new 115th Congress, one frequent topic was how we could quickly restore good jobs and stronger economic growth.
A great start would be to lift the regulatory burden off American industries. If President Obama succeeded at little else, he was the undisputed champion of overregulation. In a little over two months since the Presidential election on November 8, his administration issued 145 regulations, with 31 of those having an economic impact of $100 million or more, totaling $16.4 billion in final rules.
One of those economically significant regulations was the stream rule, a 1,600-page behemoth from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Unfortunately, the stream rule will impose duplicative and wholly unnecessary restrictions on coal mining that will be especially costly for North Dakota. The western half of our state has an 800-year supply of lignite coal, an abundant energy source generating reliable and affordable electricity. Our lignite industry supports 4,000 direct and 11,500 indirect well-paying jobs, the kind of jobs that rated a top priority among voters in the November election.
Somehow OSM was not paying attention to the election results. Independent studies of the stream rule’s impact on 36 mining operations showed this regulation alone could cost at least 42,000 direct coal jobs and up to 75,000 additional jobs in coal’s supply chain – from the power plants and railroads to the ports. For example, BNI Coal Co. estimated the stream rule would strand half of the company’s coal at its Center Mine, northwest of Bismarck.
Mining isn’t the only victim of this overreach. Because miners will be forbidden from operating in much of the Prairie Pothole region of our state, where seasonable streams are intermittent, they won’t be able to provide saline-free topsoil to farmers and wildlife. The rule impairs mining operators from working with farmers to improve land by prohibiting mining operators from removing toxic saline seeps.
North Dakotans will accept responsible regulations that create significant environmental improvements at reasonable costs. But OSM offers no environmental benefits beyond those already in place. That’s because the stream rule is a grab bag of costly but unnecessary restrictions that duplicates coal mining oversight already conducted by state agencies and other federal agencies.
Once again we see the familiar sign of a federal agency trying to muscle in on an effective state program. Our state mining agency performs coal reclamation extremely well. In a recent report OSM itself acknowledged that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues.” In fact, OSM found strong compliance with coal reclamation requirements in states that manage 97 percent of the nation’s coal. Maybe that explains why OSM failed to consult with state agencies in the development of a rule it knew would be opposed as unnecessary.
Fortunately, we have the means to stop this rule. With a simple majority vote in each House, Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) with the president-elect’s support. That would void the stream rule and begin to reassert congressional authority over rogue regulators that under the past administration have formed a virtual fourth branch of government.
Prompt congressional action would also show we hear the concerns of voters. They would rather we defend 100,000 jobs than more job-killing regulations.
See the article here.
- On January 24, 2017