Obama puts rule in place to pro­tect streams near coal mines

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Matthew Daly

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.”

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