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Stream Protection Rule is Last Attempt to Kill Coal

Dec 19, 2016
Press Release


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Congressmen Kevin Cramer issued this statement following today’s pre-publication by the Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining (OSM) of the Stream Protection Rule. Click here for more information.

“This is the Obama Administration’s last attempt to kill the coal industry. Since the beginning of his first term, President Obama’s Department of the Interior has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to rewrite an already modern 2008 rule. This rule infringes on a state’s ability to manage their own successful coal reclamation programs. In fact, just two weeks ago the OSM reported that ‘North Dakota has an effective program with no issues.’ It’s well documented that states which actually implement these rules on the ground have been pushed aside by OSM. I encourage them to continue fighting this rule and I will work with my colleagues in Congress and President-elect Trump to prevent this rule through the Congressional Review Act.”

Upon taking office, the Obama Administration began rewriting the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule after an environmental group lawsuit despite that rule’s five years of environmental analysis and careful scientific consideration. Through Congressional oversight it was learned the Obama Administration has spent at least $10 million on the new rule purportedly based on “new science” not made freely available to the public. Additionally, states, which by statute are partners in carrying out the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), have been “locked out of the rule and EIS development process,” according to the Interstate Mining Compact Commission.

Despite Congressional direction in the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations, OSM has not provided for meaningful cooperation with states regulating coal mining operations for more than 30 years. Meaningful state engagement is important because of the varying geology and hydrologic conditions across the country.

On January 12, 2016, the House passed the STREAM Act, H.R. 1644, cosponsored by Cramer, to block this rule and increase transparency in the development of SMCRA regulations. The bill was not acted on in the Senate.

Last May, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider toured North Dakota mining and reclamation sites with OSM staff, industry, North Dakota’s Congressional delegation, and the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Cramer and others pressed her on pursuing genuine engagement with state regulators and asked why she felt the rule was necessary in North Dakota, to which she had no answer. As the final rule progressed to the Office of Management and Budget, Cramer spoke with Howard Shelanski, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, about the rule’s impact on North Dakota and the entire energy industry.

The Congressional Review Act provides special procedures for disapproving agency rules if approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. It’s estimated that final rules submitted to Congress on or after June 13, 2016, will be subject to this review when President Trump assumes office in 2017.