Acting under the authority of the little-known Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn rules passed in the previous 60 working days, yesterday President Trump signed legislation repealing the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a key Obama administration regulation aimed at protecting waterways from coal mining waste. The regulation stated that coal mines were prohibited from damaging the “hydrologic balance” outside their permit areas and established a protective buffer around streams. The rule had a short lifespan, having been finalized in December 2016.
The coal mining industry is applauding the decision, which industry officials say would be costly to implement and lead to additional job losses in an already struggling sector. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated: “The Department of Interior’s stream protection rule—which is now repealed—could have wiped out one-third of American coal mining jobs. Coal country will finally receive relief from the Obama administration’s eight-year war on affordable energy.” Environmentalists are critical of the decision because they contend the rule was necessary to protect waterways from pollution and protect public health. Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney Deborah Murray explains, “Limiting the toxic waste coal companies can dump in our rivers and streams is not a burdensome government regulation; it is common sense and, quite frankly, the job of our federal government. We cannot continue to allow toxic mining pollution in our sources of drinking water.”