Obama puts rule in place to protect streams near coal mines
washington» The Obama administration on Monday set final rules designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal mining on the nation’s streams, a long-anticipated move that met quick resistance from Republicans who vowed to overturn it under President Donald Trump.
The Interior Department said the new rule will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing debris from coal mining from being dumped into nearby waters. The rule would maintain a buffer zone that blocks coal mining within 100 feet of streams but would impose stricter guidelines for exceptions to the 100-foot rule.
Interior officials said the rule would cause only modest job losses in coal country, but Republicans and some coal-state Democrats denounced it as a job-killer being imposed during President Barack Obama’s final days in office.
Coal is struggling under steep competition from cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas pollution that contributes to climate change.
U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, and several coal companies have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months, including three of the country’s biggest coal producers, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the rule part of Obama’s “eight-year war on coal” that he said has cost jobs and hurt coal miners and their families. He and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said they look forward to working with Trump to provide “relief” to coal communities hit hard by the industry’s downturn.
McConnell said he will introduce a resolution of disapproval under the rarely used Congressional Review Act to overturn the stream-protection rule and vowed to “use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country.”