Thursday, June 29, 2017

Overturn of rule aimed at protecting rivers is called good for coal industry

President Donald Trump’s signing of a bill overturning a rule aimed at protecting rivers from surface coal mining debris has been welcomed by a conservative advocacy group based in Washington D.C.

And the president’s use of an obscure act to quickly rollback the “stream protection rule” was lauded as a template to nullify other regulations introduced by the Obama administration.

"President Trump’s action today is a refreshing change from the Obama administration, which constantly targeted the coal industry through costly and destructive regulations,” Adam Brandon, president and chief executive of FreedomWorks, a group aligned to the tea party movement, said.

When announcing the implementation of the rule, the Department of the Interior argued it would “protect 6,000 miles of streams of and 52,000 acres of forests by keeping coal mining debris away from nearby waters.” It banned surface mining within 100 feet of streams and tightened rules for conducting environmental studies and cleaning up mines.

Congressional Republicans wielded provisions in the little used Congressional Review Act to overturn the rule, and Trump signed the bill into law Feb. 16. Introduced in 1996, the act allows for the fast track repeal of certain rules and needs only a simple majority in the Senate to pass.

The action will eliminate another terrible job-killing rule, saving many thousands of American jobs, especially in the mines, Trump said.

“This is both good for families in coal country as well as our entire economy, particularly families that rely on inexpensive energy," Brandon said. “I hope President Trump will continue to look for ways to reduce burdensome regulations. ...We also look forward to the passage of more resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to nullify Obama's midnight regulations.”

In a 2015 report, the National Mining Association claimed 40,000 to 78,000 coal mining jobs would be lost with the introduction of the rule. It further claimed 281,000 jobs would be lost in related fields.

However, the Congressional Research Service found the rule would reduce coal-related employment by an average of 260 jobs a year, ranging from 41 in one year, to 590 in another. The CRS also estimated it would generate an average of 250 higher skilled jobs a year.

The CRS separately projected the coal industry will lose 15,000 jobs between 2020 and 2040 because of other factors, including increased mechanization and falling market share to other energy sources.

On average, the cost of complying with the rule would add 40 cents per ton to coal extracted from Appalachian surface mines, the CRS said. More than 90 percent of the 382 mines affected by the rule are located in Appalachia, the research service stated.

The severance taxes states collected from mining companies, which totaled $1.1 billion in all states in 2012, would fall by $2.5 million per year once the rule was implemented, according to CRS, adding that West Virginia and Kentucky would lose 80 percent of that revenue.

Severance taxes are levied on companies that extract non-renewable resources. The revenue flows to the states.

Organizations in this story

Freedomworks for America 400 N. Capitol St. N.W., Suite 765 Washington, DC 20001

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