WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) has been particularly busy the past couple of weeks. Recently, Capito visited the White House, joining a bipartisan group of senators who met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Their discussion ranged widely and included two issues of special interest to Capito: bridging the digital divide and stemming the rising tide of opioid abuse. They also discussed Trump’s nomination of federal appellate court Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court left open when Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Capito was back at the White House on Feb. 16, joining Trump and West Virginia coal miners for the signing of a measure that repealed the Stream Protection Rule.

“Sen. Capito and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the legislation in the Senate, and she was with the president yesterday, along with West Virginia coal miners, when he signed the bill into law,” Amy Graham, the senator’s deputy communications director, told The West Virginia Record.

“President Trump today signaled an end to years of over-regulation targeting the coal industry and vital jobs in West Virginia,” the senator said in a prepared statement. “This action will help protect the one-third of coal jobs placed at risk by the misguided Stream Protection Rule.

“It also restores states to their proper role as the regulators of mining activities. I was proud to join President Trump and West Virginia coal miners at the White House for the signing of this important measure, and I will continue working with the president to protect our critical energy economy,” she said.

Issued in the waning days of the Obama administration, the Stream Protection Rule would have banned surface mining within 100 feet of streams and tightened requirements for carrying out environmental impact studies and mine clean-ups. Congressional Republicans, as well as coal mining companies, opposed the measure, saying it would result in higher business costs and job losses.

Already feeling the strain from cheaper coal being mined in Wyoming, Appalachian coal mines would have been particularly hard hit, according to Congressional Research Service (CRS) study, which estimated that it would add 40 cents per ton to coal mined in the region. More than 90 percent of the 382 small mines that would have been affected are located in Appalachia, CRS determined.

Overall, CRS estimated enactment of the rule would have reduced coal mining-related employment by an average of 260 jobs per year. On the other hand, CRS estimated it would have resulted in the creation of an average of 250 jobs a year. Some of those would be in high-skilled areas, such as engineering and biology, unlikely to be filled by laid-off miners. They would have been qualified for others, such as bulldozer operations, however.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) co-sponsored the resolution of disapproval, which he and Capito introduced in Congress on Feb. 13.

Having passed in the House of Representatives Wednesday evening, Senate Republicans voted to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, as well as an energy industry anti-corruption regulation.

“Today’s vote is step one in overturning the anti-coal agenda that has devastated West Virginia for the last eight years,” the senator stated. “The misguided Stream Protection Rule could have put one-third of the remaining coal jobs at risk nationally, a threat coal-producing states simply cannot afford. I was proud to introduce this measure with Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and I am glad this harmful anti-coal regulation will soon be overturned."

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