Attorney General Praises Repeal of Restrictive Mining Rules
February 26, 2017
(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth praised Congress for passing a resolution that disapproved of the Stream Protection Rule, recently issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). The Rule took took effect on the final day of President Obama’s term in office (January 19, 2017).
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn regulations that were published in the previous 60 legislative days.
Attorney General Lindemuth and Commissioner Andy Mack, Department of Natural Resources, stated in a news release they are pleased that President Trump signed the resolution. President Trump signed H.J. Res. 38 on February 16, 2017, which disapproved the rule known as the Stream Protection Rule. In early February, the U. S. House and Senate voted to repeal the Stream Protection Rule using a regulation-killing tool known as the Congressional Review Act.
“I thank Alaska’s Congressional delegation for their unwavering commitment to this important issue,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “Repealing this restrictive rule allows Alaska’s existing coal mining regulatory program, which already includes protections for streams and other environmental resources, to remain in place.”
Alaska had already joined 12 other states in challenging the Stream Protection Rule in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, based on both the process by which the rule was developed as well as its content. A significant concern was that the rule did not adequately take into account Alaska’s unique geography and environment. At the same time, Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and several other attorneys general sent a letter to Congress urging it to consider using the Congressional Review Act to remedy this problematic rulemaking.
Under the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) states may obtain primacy jurisdiction over regulation of coal mining activities. Alaska obtained primacy in the 1980s with implementation of the Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act (ASCMCRA). The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has implemented this act to ensure that Alaska streams and natural resources are protected from the adverse impacts of mining while allowing for a healthy coal mining industry.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources joined representatives from 12 other states in reaching out early to OSMRE to make reasonable changes to the federal laws, but OSMRE chose a path that excluded state input, leading to the resolution signed today by the President.
The Republican implemented resolution to rescind the Stream Protection Rule has provided many news outlets with headlines in the vein of “Trump makes it legal to dump coal mining waste into rivers and streams.” According to Snopes, although the initiative to block the Stream Protection Rule will undoubtedly increase the number of permits issued to dump excess spoil into streams, it is more of a return to a vaguely established condition than an instance of newly enacted legalization. Prior to the Obama administration’s 2017 rule, the issue of surface water contamination through steam buffer zones was addressed by rules already in place.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) voted in support of H.J. Res. 38, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) disapproval resolution to overturn the Obama administration’s “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR). The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 54-45 on February 02, 2017 and was sent to President Trump for his signature.
“In drafting this regulation, the Obama administration ignored the input and recommendations of states and stakeholders, and subverted the law to meet its policy objective—keeping coal in the ground,” Murkowski said. “Left intact, this rule would have cost us jobs and revenues, from Alaska to Appalachia. By overturning it, we will avoid those significant impacts, and help ensure a continued supply of reliable, affordable energy for Americans all across the country.”
Sen. Sullivan said,“This job-killing rule was issued by the Obama administration without considering the concerns and comments raised during the rulemaking process. What is worse the previous administration failed to meaningfully consult with states like Alaska during the writing of this flawed rule. Instead, this rule created a blanket national regulation that seriously limits the availability of abundant and affordable resources to power the lights and heat our homes in Interior Alaska and other regions across the country. I’m pleased we worked swiftly to overturn this overreaching regulation—promulgated at the end of the Obama administration.
“Going forward, we must work together to reduce and modernize regulatory requirements, not create a maze of duplicative, conflicting, and industry killing regulations,” said Sullivan.
H.J. Res. 38 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 01, 2017 by a vote of 228 to 194.
“This rule was a thinly veiled attempt to destroy the coal mining industry and regulate hardworking Americans right out of their livelihoods,” said Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska). “Sadly, the Obama administration’s war on coal manifested into some of the worst rule making I’ve seen in years – debilitating new regulations focused on eliminating one of our nation’s most reliable domestic energy sources. By failing to cooperate with existing stakeholders and states, ignoring numerous advancements made in technology, and not fully analyzing the Alaskan impact, it’s clear to me that the previous administration sought a predetermined outcome – based entirely on politics and with little regard for the working men and women of the United States.”
Quoting a news release from Young, the "Stream Buffer Rule", finalized on December 20, 2016, rewrote over 450 existing regulations, added a patchwork of duplicative and conflicting regulatory requirements without discernible environmental benefit, ignored regulatory successes at the federal and state level, and jeopardized one-third of the nation’s coal mining workforce. Further, Young says, in the Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) rulemaking process, the agency ignored Alaska’s long term potential of coal development and failed to fully take into consideration Alaska’s abundant coal deposits.
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Reporting and Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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