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By Michael Bastasch
President Donald Trump signed legislation Thursday repealing an Obama administration rule targeting coal mining.
“We’re bringing it back, and we’re bringing it back fast,” Trump said before signing the bill. Trump then gave the pen with which he signed the legislation to coal miners who attended the ceremony.
Both chambers of Congress passed resolutions under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) earlier this year to eliminate the Interior Department’s so-called “Stream Protection Rule” on coal mine discharge into nearby streams.
Trump has been expected to sign the CRA into law. Trump said in a previous statement the $1.2 billion stream rule “duplicates existing protections in the Clean Water Act and is unnecessary given the other Federal and State regulations already in place.”
Trump said he’s “committed to reviving America’s coal mining communities, which have been hurting for too long” — a major campaign promise he made was to rollback federal regulations on coal use.
Lawmakers have introduced at least 37 CRA resolutions to repeal Obama-era rules. As many as 150 regulations are eligible for repeal under the CRA, according to experts.
The Obama administration finalized the stream rule in December 2016. Democrats and environmentalists support the rule because it restricts the amount of mining that can happen in Appalachia.
Republicans argued the stream rule is duplicative and would force more coal mines to close, forcing more miners out of work. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota supported the rule’s repeal.
“Because of the war on coal waged by the Obama administration, over 240 coal fired plants have closed and 83,000 people have lost their jobs,” West Virginia Rep. David McKinley said in a statement. “Fortunately, we finally have a partner in the White House who understands just how damaging these rules can be.”
The Obama administration spent 7 years crafting the rule. It was meant to replace the Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone rule.
Trump’s repealing of the stream rule marks his second CRA signing. The president signed a CRA to repeal a rule requiring oil and gas companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. That rule was part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
Congress is currently in the process of approving a CRA to repeal Obama-era rules on venting and flaring methane from oil and natural gas wells on federal lands.
The House approved the CRA earlier this month, and it’s currently being considered by the Senate. Some Republicans are mulling whether to support the CRA, but it’s expected to pass.
Republicans argue it’s another duplicative, unnecessary rule form the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Democrats and environmentalists say it’s needed to tackle global warming and increase revenues from drilling on federal lands.
“The contortions BLM went through to say they had the legal authority is almost embarrassing,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop said in a statement on the CRA’s passing.
“This is an illegal rule and it’s a costly one,” Bishop said. “This rule’s repeal is a vote for people and making sure their lives are better, not worse.”
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