End of a Rule

Posted February 3, 2017

As President Trump signs the Resolution of Disapproval, sending the so-called “Stream Protection Rule” to its demise, you’ll see a lot of crocodile tears about what this means for the environment.  Case in point – “By overturning Stream Protection Rule, Congress Puts Polluter Profits Above American Communities” tweeted the Sierra Club; an AP headline read “House passes measure to scuttle Obama regulation protecting streams from coal mining debris.”

In issuing this rule as a midnight regulation, the Obama Administration knew it would be subject to the Congressional Review Act, and could be overturned – permanently – by Congress and President Trump.  In this regard, the Stream Protection Rule had one positive effect: to serve as a fundraising tool for environmental activists.  And the fact is they probably need the help.

The Stream Protection Rule was developed under the guise of addressing impacts from surface mining in Appalachia.  What it turned into was a one-size fits all administrative fiat that would have prohibited mining of approximately 40-60 percent of current coal reserves at mines in North Dakota, and cost electric ratepayers served by North Dakota’s coal-based power plants $50 million annually in compliance.  Mine reclamation in North Dakota has long been held to the standard of returning mined lands to as good or better as before mining.  Certainly better in the case of reclaiming naturally-occurring saline seeps and other water features with no ecological or agricultural value.  The Stream Protection Rule would not only have had zero benefit over the current standard, it would have prohibited improvements made to the landscape post-mining.

These facts speak for themselves, despite clever attempts to characterize the rule as something it’s not.  By overturning this rule as one of its first significant acts of the 115th Congress, and President Trump signing only the second disapproval resolution since enactment of the Congressional Review Act, our federal government is sending one strong signal that the coal mining industry is no longer a target but a valuable partner in providing clean, affordable, and reliable power to our homes and businesses.

A popular line since last November was that one election will not help a declining coal industry.  Never mind one election; with one vote, and one stroke of a pen, Senators Hoeven, Heitkamp, Representative Cramer, and President Trump just retained untold thousands of coal jobs in North Dakota and throughout the country.  Coal country thanks them, and looks forward to working with this new mindset in Washington, DC.

To those activists who will use this as a profiteering machine to continue funding their war on jobs – good luck, it looks like you’re going to need it.