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McConnell vows to reverse new Obama coal reg

Critics argue the rule would cost coal industry jobs. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

December 19, 2016

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is vowing to reverse the Obama administration’s final stream-protection rule, a regulation released Monday aimed at trying to protect water resources from coal and other surface mining contamination.

McConnell on Monday said he plans to use a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act to introduce a resolution of disapproval next month to “overturn this egregious regulation and work with my colleagues to use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country.

“The president’s eight-year war on coal has wrecked the lifeblood of the economy and the livelihoods of coal country workers and their families,” McConnell said.

McConnell called the decision to finalize the stream protection rule before leaving office a “desperate, last-minute attempt to cement that effort against American energy and American jobs.” He promised to work with the Trump administration to provide “relief to our coal communities.”

Critics of the Interior Department rule have argued that the regulation, which would impact more than 6,000 miles of streams around the country, would further decimate coal industry employment.

The rule adds requirements for companies to monitor and test streams before the mining begins, as well as during and after the mining. It also stringently defines what would constitute “material damage” to connected waterways, areas outside the permitted mining area.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the Interior Department agency that issued the final rule, argues that it is needed to keep up with technological advances since Congress passed a 1983 law governing mining’s impact on waterways.

Senators from other coal-producing states, including Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, also issued statements Monday criticizing the new stream-protection regulation. Before the Senate recessed for Christmas break, Manchin, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, tried to force Congress to provide a longer-term health care solution for retired coal miners and their widows.

While they were unsuccessful before leaving town in early December, McConnell promised to address the issue and provide a longer-term solution early next year.