WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins has introduced a resolution to force Congress to take an up-or-down vote on a recently finalized anti-coal regulation from the Obama administration.
Jenkins’ joint resolution of congressional disapproval would require a simple majority vote of each chamber on the stream buffer zone rule, which the administration published Jan. 20 in the Federal Register.
“This rule is President Obama’s final chapter in his anti-coal legacy, a legacy that has cost West Virginia thousands of jobs and decimated our state’s economy," Jenkins said. "I am taking swift action to stop this rule and this president’s anti-coal agenda.
"I urge my colleagues to join me in saying no to this president – no more overregulation, no more lost jobs, and no more policies that put West Virginians out of work."
The rule would prohibit any change to the land and environment near coal mines. Last year, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) proposed the rule, which coal industry leaders have called the single greatest threat to the jobs and family livelihoods of their employees.
Jenkins' joint resolution of congressional disapproval introduced would allow Congress to quickly consider and vote to overturn the stream buffer zone rule with a simple majority vote of each chamber. Additionally, once invalidated, similar rules may not be issued by the agencies unless Congress explicitly authorizes it by law.
In November, Jenkins helped pass legislation to stop this and future administrations from pushing through regulations in their last months in office. The Midnight Rules Relief Act would give Congress the authority to review and reject rules that any president issues during the final months of their terms.
When the rule was introduced earlier in December, a host of Republican leaders blasted it, saying it would “dramatically reduce coal mining.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called it “an unrealistic standard clearly designed to eliminate an activity crucial to the economic lifeblood of West Virginia and the energy needs of the country.”
“This regulation would have drastic consequences on coal mining in West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “President Obama aims to make this effective the day before inauguration, truly a last-ditch attempt to enact his radical agenda. This outrageous and unlawful move by unelected bureaucrats demands Congress use its power to disapprove of such rules as soon as President-elect Trump takes office.”
Morrisey said he and Ohio AG Mike DeWine are reviewing the regulation and will take appropriate legal action to safeguard the states’ interests.
“This is yet the latest regulatory overreach by the Obama Administration to adopt an extreme measure contrary to the law,” DeWine said. “It is potentially very harmful to working men and women in our states, including coal miners and energy consumers.
“This newly unveiled final rule is now being forced through the process so as to go into effect on January 19th – literally on the eve of the new administration. The rule exceeds the power granted by Congress and ignores separate regulatory authority reserved to the states and other agencies. As with other overreaches, we will take whatever legal action is necessary to protect the interests of Ohioans and Ohio’s economy.”
The AGs say the regulation doesn’t respect state control over mining regulations as required by Congress and seeks to regulate areas already monitored by other federal entities and the individual states. They say it also exceeds the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s authority as it would “broadly prohibit almost all mining-related activity in a specified stream buffer zone, subject longwall mining to unrealistic standards and set forth increased water sampling requirements that ignore local geology.”
Last year, Morrisey and DeWine led 14 states in opposing the proposed regulations and calling for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to coordinate with states in drafting a balanced rule. Such cooperation did not occur.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito also voiced opposition to the SPR.
“It is disappointing, but certainly not surprising, that the Obama Administration has decided to pursue this last-ditch effort to further harm West Virginia coal jobs,” she said. “The Stream Protection Rule would cause significant harm to both surface and underground coal mines.
“Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility. Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”
Capito and 22 other senators recently sent a letter to President Obama requesting his administration stop issuing non-emergency rules and regulations in the final weeks of his term. She also introduced the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act of 2015 (STREAM Act), which would ensure that any rule issued by U.S. Department of Interior is based on sound, open data and would not needlessly increase regulatory burdens or eliminate thousands of jobs.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley called the SPR an overreaching regulation that further limits and restricts coal mining.
“This action is outrageous,” he said. “The SPR is yet another attack on the coal industry and this administration’s final shot in the War on Coal before President Obama leaves office.
“It is clear that this Administration was not paying attention in November. This rule is nothing but an insult to the working men and women of this country because it’s economic impact will be massive.
“The implementation of this rule would result in a decrease of up to 85 percent in coal reserves, threatening the livelihoods of 80,000 coal miners and their families. Fortunately, this regulation will be promptly overturned. After meeting with House Leadership and members of the incoming Trump administration, I am confident that Congress and the President-elect will block this regulation before it can cause more harm to the hard working families of the coal industry.”