WASHINGTON — The beginning of the end of the so-called "war on coal" began this week when both chambers of Congress approved resolutions to overturn the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule, the office of U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., announced Feb. 2.
The joint resolution is on President Trump's desk, McKinley's communications director, John Stapleton, said in an email to The West Virginia Record.
"Yesterday, it passed the House," Stapleton said. "This afternoon, it passed the Senate. We fully expect President Trump to sign it."
If Trump does sign, he will become the first president to end a coal rule since 2001, according to Bloomberg News, when Congress and then-President George W. Bush killed a Clinton-era ergonomics rule adopted by the Labor Department.
West Virginia U.S. District 1 Rep. David McKinley speaks on the floor of the House prior to vote against Obama-era Stream Protection Rule
"For the last two years, the Coal Caucus of bipartisan members has made stopping this rule our No. 1 priority, because it has nothing to do with the health of America, the safety of America, and the life of Americans," McKinley said on the floor of the House before the vote in that chamber, according to video from C-Span. "Simply put, it was President Obama’s attempt to drive a final nail into the coffin of an industry that made America great. Look, enough is enough. This war on coal has to come to a stop, and I think this election set the tone for that. Now that we finally have a president who understands the painful impact of excessive and unnecessary regulations, we should pass this (Congressional Review Act) as quickly as possible so he can sign it."
On Feb. 1, the House passed the bill 228-194 to overturn the Obama-era rule designed to reduce water pollution. On Feb. 2, the Senate 54-45 vote to pass similar legislation, making it the first of a number of coal rules expected to be ended in the current Congress, Reuters reported.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was one of four Democratic U.S. senators to support the measure, the others being Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against it.
The Stream Protection Rule was proposed July 27, 2015 by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Coal-industry leaders have consistently called this rule the single greatest threat to the jobs.
"If not stopped, 78,000 coal miners could lose their jobs," McKinley said in an email to the West Virginia Record.
On Feb. 1, Morning Consult published an op-ed piece by McKinley, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., about why the Stream Protection Rule needed to be stopped.
"This statutorily-questionable and duplicative rule imposes harm upon communities and state regulatory bodies with little environmental or economic benefit," the op-ed piece said. "It was written without state input, stretches grossly beyond congressional intent and was issued in the waning days of the outgoing Obama administration. This is precisely why Congress created the Congressional Review Act, and this is the reason it will be used to overturn SPR."
On Jan. 30, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., co-sponsored of a resolution of disapproval under the CRA aimed at overturning the Stream Protection Rule.
"The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America's coal industry," Capito said in a news release issued the same day as the resolution. "If this rule was allowed to say in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities. Together with Leader McConnell and my congressional colleagues, I look forward to nullifying this harmful rule that is bad for jobs, families and businesses, especially in energy-producing states like West Virginia. Passing this resolution of disapproval will help usher in a new era of common-sense policies that protect our environment without needlessly compromising our economy and jobs."