Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Trump Signs Measure Blocking Obama-Era Rule to Protect Streams

  • Coal-mining companies fought regulation affecting streams
  • Critics say regulation would have hurt Appalachian miners

President Donald Trump signed legislation repealing a regulation meant to protect streams from the effects of coal mining.

The congressional resolution killing the so-called Stream Protection Rule, which was issued in the waning days of the Obama administration, follows similar action by Trump overturning an anti-corruption rule that would have required oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. Congressional Republicans have plans to send Trump an array of resolutions under the Congressional Review Act, including one to prevent people with serious mental-health problems from buying guns.

"In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations," Trump said at a White House signing ceremony.

Companies such as coal producers Foresight Energy LP and Murray Energy Corp. stand to gain from repeal of the mining rule, which would have required those companies to monitor water quality and restore streams once their mining is complete.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has led the opposition to the rule, calling it "an attack against coal miners." Others against it included the United Mine Workers of America and the National Mining Association, a Washington-based trade group representing companies such as Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp.

The Interior Department, which spent seven years crafting the rule, had said the regulation, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, primarily in Appalachia. It is meant to stop the practice of dumping mining waste in streams and valleys during mountaintop mining. They estimated compliance with the regulation would cost $81 million a year, or 0.1 percent or less of aggregate annual industry revenues, it said.

"Leaders in Congress and the administration chose to put coal-mining profits over the health and safety of Appalachian communities,” said Deborah Murray, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Limiting the toxic waste coal companies can dump in our rivers and streams is not a burdensome government regulation; it is common sense and, quite frankly, the job of our federal government."

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