CHARLESTON – An 11th hour regulation put on the books by departing President Barack Obama has been effortlessly struck down by Congress, leaving one West Virginia Congressman happy with the result.
On Feb. 16, President Donald Trump fulfilled another of his campaign promises when, following Congress’ use of a power to eliminate new regulations by majority vote, he agreed to the abolition of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule that his predecessor had spent his entire tenure as president crafting.
U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), long an advocate of the coal industry, is especially pleased with the striking down of the rule, which he and fellow Congressmen Bill Johnson (R-OH) and David McKinley (R-WV) killed with a bill of their own (H. J. Res. 38).
“This [rule] has been the hammer over the head of the coal industry for several years, and the Obama administration callously filed the rule, and it came into effect Jan. 19, the day before Donald Trump became president," Jenkins told The West Virginia Record. "This was the final shot from the Obama administration to kill coal.”
Jenkins spoke with The West Virginia Record a day after he appeared before the West Virginia Mining Symposium at the Charleston Civic Center where he spoke, among other things, about the defeat of the Obama regulation.
The rule, adopted on Dec. 16, 2016, essentially put a much more stringent restriction on what is termed "mountaintop removal mining" and looked to protect what the government called the "hydrologic balance" of the nearby ecosystem. Mountaintop removal mining is one option used by coal mining companies and involves the demolition of mountain tops so as to easier access rich veins of coal lying beneath.
Critics of the technique argue that such a procedure needlessly endangers the waterways when claimed toxic debris from the demolition is dumped into them. Environmentalist groups have asserted that there is growing evidence of health complications to residents living nearby and that thousands of miles of streams have been buried.
Jenkins contended that the rule was not so much an environmental asset as it was an economic liability.
“This rule was in the works for over six years, at the federal level,” said Jenkins, “The Office of Surface Mining had spent over $10 million crafting this rule and the industry had the rule evaluated and it was estimated that if it was allowed to stay on the books that it would cause one-third of all coal jobs in America to be [lost] and it would take one-half of all the coal reserves in America and declare them untouchable.”
“[President Trump’s] action nullifies a duplicative, unnecessary yet extremely costly regulation targeting coal miners and their families who for eight years have borne the brunt of a full-scale regulatory assault on their livelihoods. From across the country, state mining agencies have rejected the stream rule and the deeply flawed process that prevented their consultation. With the president’s action today, they can now exercise their lawful authority as Congress intended.”
Jenkins said the defeat of the rule would save tens of thousands of jobs and should give the people of the nation some hope.
“When folks look at the news and see all the protests, and protests at town halls or listen to suggestions that nothing is getting done, we got something done.”