Interior rule offers no protection, only pain

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Chris Woodward (

OSMRE (Dept. of Interior)The National Mining Association hopes the Trump administration will do away with the controversial Stream Protection Rule.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) – a branch of the Department of the Interior – has finalized the Stream Protection Rule to improve what OSMRE calls the balance between environmental protection and providing for the nation's need for coal as a source of energy.

"The final rule better protects streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provides mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment," says OSMRE in a statement on its website.

Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association says the purpose of the rule isn't really environmental protection because it doesn't offer any protections beyond what federal and state agencies are currently providing.

"... It tries to give an agency a broader mission, because this agency's responsibility is limited to regulating coal mines – and as we all know, the number of those coal mines has been greatly reduced, thanks in part to the administration's regulations like this," he says.

"We're happy to see that both President-elect Trump and leaders of the new Congress who take their seats in January have already pledged to overturn this rule."

That's what Popovich finds really interesting about this rule.

"The Obama administration and OSMRE know perfectly well that that is the fate that awaits this rule, that the incoming administration opposes it; and yet they spitefully issued this massive rule knowing that it's going to be overturned," he says. "It's very self-serving and it's going to cause a lot of economic hardship in coal fields across the country."

In the meantime, Popovich says there's little doubt the Obama administration will issue more, final rules between now and Inauguration Day (January 20, 2017).

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