Morrisey, other AGs challenge Stream Protection Rule

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 19, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Attorneys General of West Virginia and Ohio are leading a group of 13 states in a challenge to the federal Stream Protection Rule, which is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 19.

West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey, Ohio AG Mike DeWine and other AGs filed a suit Jan. 17 in federal court saying the Stream Protection Rule is drastically and illegally limiting coal mining in disregard of state regulatory authority. Many of the AGs also signed a letter asking Congress to revoke the last-minute Obama administration regulation.

“We cannot stand for the unlawful, last-minute antics of this administration,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Such a regulation would drastically reduce – if not eliminate – coal mining across large portions of West Virginia. This rule must be stopped.”

The rule would prohibit any change to the land and environment around coal mines. In the AG’s lawsuit, the states claim the Office of Surface Mining, a division of the U.S. Department of Interior, adopted the rule without meaningful consultation with the states and despite objections raised by the states.

“This overreaching, last gasp Obama Administration regulation goes far beyond what the law permits,” DeWine said in a statement. “It exceeds the power Congress has given to federal regulators and ignores the authority given to the states. It would have a disastrous effect on Ohio coal miners, their families, and their communities.”

According to the lawsuit, the regulation ignores Congress’ instruction in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act that says states should be the primary regulators of coal mining and seeks to impose a top-down, one-size-fits all approach.

The states claim the rule would subject longwall mining to unrealistic standards, ignore local geology and prohibit many mining activities already regulated by states.

The states ask the court to vacate the rule, prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule, and remand the case so the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining can issue a new rule that complies with the Surface Mining Act and U.S. Constitution.

In addition to West Virginia and Ohio, other states participating in the lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Also on Jan. 17, 14 states sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congress to use its power under the Congressional Review Act to disapprove the rule so it would have no continuing force or effect. The Congressional Review Act establishes streamlined procedures for Congress to pass legislation vetoing regulations within 60 days of their issuance.

The letter is signed by Morrisey, DeWine and the Attorneys General of the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming as well as the general counsel for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia case number 1:17-cv-00108

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