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Progressive Review - Obama issues coal mining regulations despite Trump's opposition
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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - December 22, 2016
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*-- Obama issues coal mining regulations despite Trump's opposition --*
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama approved new regulations Monday to protect streams and groundwater from coal mining, a measure that his successor Donald Trump opposes.
The rule, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests primarily in Appalachia, the U.S. Interior Department said. It will require mining companies to restore streams once their work is complete and to monitor water quality.
"Regulations need to keep pace with modern mining practices, so we worked closely with many stakeholders to craft a plan that protects water quality, supports economic opportunities, safeguards our environment and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement released Monday.
In coal communities in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, underground mining has been going on for at least a century.
The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement visited numerous mines and received more than 150,000 written comments and statements from 15 open houses and public meeting nationwide.
"This updated, scientifically modern rule will make life better for a countless number of Americans who live near places where coal is being mined," OSMRE Director Joseph Pizarchik said in a statement. "We are closing loopholes and improving our rules to more completely implement the law passed by Congress.
The Obama administration says this rule will have "negligible impact" on the finances of coal mining companies. The agency estimates it will add an average of $81 million a year in compliance costs to the industry -- or 0.1 percent or less of aggregate annual industry revenues.
During his presidential campaign, Trump said the rule was part of Obama's "war on coal" and promised to repeal it.
Hal Quinn, the National Mining Association president and CEO, said "the decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst. This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule's development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans."
The trade group noted mining contributes more than $18.5 billion annually in state and federal tax revenues and said the new rule is expected to reduce these revenues by between 15 percent and 35 percent.
The rule is the "single greatest threat to the jobs and family livelihoods of our employees that I have seen in my 58 years of coal mining experience," Murray Energy Core CEO Robert E. Murray said in 2015 to his supporters at Green Tree mine in Pennsylvania.
Congress is poised to ban the rule using the Congressional Review Act. This law allows an up-or-down vote on any significant rulemaking within 60 days of its finalization.
"The Obama administration jammed this futile, job-killing rule through under the wire," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, said in a statement. "The only silver lining with today's release is that their eight-year waste of taxpayer money finally comes to an end."
The regulations were applauded by environmentalists.
"For too long, mining companies have gotten away with dumping toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic into waterways," the League of Conservation Voters said in a statement.
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