Stream Protection Rule ... Passed and Overturned in a Few Weeks .... Sad
We, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE or OSM), are revising our regulations, based on, among other things, advances in science, to improve the balance between environmental protection and the Nation's need for coal as a source of energy. This final rule will better protect water supplies, surface water and groundwater quality, streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provide mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment.
We have revised our regulations to define "material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area" and require that each permit specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would reach that level of damage; collect adequate premining data about the site of the proposed mining operation and adjacent areas to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation; adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams; ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources; ensure that permittees and regulatory authorities make use of advances in science and technology; ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting before mining; and update and codify the requirements and procedures for protection of threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat.
Approximately thirty percent of the final rule consists of editorial revisions and organizational changes intended to improve consistency, clarity, accuracy, and ease of use.
This rule is effective January 19, 2017.
Thirteen days later: February 2, 2017, Washington, DC , the rule was repealed:
Today, the US Senate voted to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, a modest clean-water safeguard crafted to protect the health of communities impacted by coal mining. The Senate bypassed committee review and regular order to bring this resolution to the floor.
Many years in the making, the Stream Protection Rule was the first significant update to surface mining regulations in 30 years. It was intended to address the pervasive problem of toxic pollution impacting community health and waterways near coal-mining operations.
Statement by Earthjustice's Associate Legislative Representative, Jenifer Collins:
"In its first few days in session, Congress has used a backdoor tactic known as the Congressional Review Act to eviscerate a clean water protection that took years of scientific research and public engagement to create. The Stream Protection Rule was a common sense safeguard that provided the monitoring of streams near coal mining operations — many of which feed into drinking water sources — for pollutants such as lead, arsenic, selenium, and manganese.
"Given that many of these toxins are known to cause birth defects, developmental delays, and other health and environmental impacts, this basic monitoring provision was essential. This Congressional action is a warning shot to each of us — Congress is willing to trade our health and safety for industry profits. This does not mean that the problem of water contamination from coal mining has gone away and we will continue to fight with communities from Appalachia to Alaska for the protections they deserve."
- Earthjustice Explainer on Stream Protection Rule
- Background on Stream Protection Rule
- Community Letter Opposing Congressional Attacks on Stream Protection Rule
- Appalachian Voices joins coalition to legally defend stream protections, community health
- Why Congress just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams
- Stream Protection Rule; Final Environmental Impact Statement
A Rule by the Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Office on 11/16/2016
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