Trump signs repeal of rule to protect waterways from coal mining waste

A coal miner identified as Kevin shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump prior to the president signing H.J. Res. 38, disapproving the rule submitted by the U.S. Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule at the White House on February 16, 2017. The Department of Interior's Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, "addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites," according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution. Pool photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Thursday signed legislation to eliminate an Obama administration rule designed to protect waterways from coal mining waste.

Trump signed House Joint Resolution 38 Thursday afternoon, repealing the stream protection rule, which would have required coal companies to monitor water quality near mines and restore streams and waterways once mining is complete.

The administration has called the rule an attack on coal miners and their families because it places what critics call an undue and expensive burden on miners that could further harm their shrinking industry. The Trump administration also claims the rule duplicated other already existing regulations protecting waterways near coal mines.

The repeal is the latest of several passed by the House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act, part of what Trump and members of Congress have described as an effort to ease over-regulated industries.

“In eliminating this rule, I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations,” Trump said during Thursday’s signing ceremony.

The stream protection rule was the result of seven years of work in the Obama administration designed to protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest throughout Appalachia — areas that supported Trump during the presidential campaign because of his comments on the coal industry there.

While the government estimated the regulation would cost about $81 million industry-wide, officials in the coal industry said the costs associated with setting it up would lead to job losses and cause undue detriment to their already hurting industry.

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The Trump administration specifically pointed to the “unsustainable financial burden” on small mines in the Appalachian Basin as being at most risk to have been harmed by the regulation.

Democrats criticized the move, saying Trump and the GOP have been rolling back environmental protections in the name of energy companies but not addressing displaced workers in areas where mines have closed.

“If you want to help miners, then come address their health and safety and their pension program,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said before voting on the repeal. “You can protect the coal industry here with special interests and the amount of lobbying they do, or you can step up in a process and have a regulation that works for the United States of America so the outdoor industry and sportsman and fishermen can continue to thrive.”

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