GOP moves to undo Obama coal rules protecting streams

AP News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2017 5:32 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans are moving swiftly to repeal Obama administration regulations aimed at better protecting streams from coal mining debris.

Coal country lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday to block the rules, which they say would kill jobs in the coal industry, which is reeling from competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.

The legislation unveiled Monday would overturn December regulations through a process that permits Congress to revoke recently-issued rules in a manner that is immune to filibusters by Senate Democrats.

The repeal measure is set for a House vote Wednesday and a Senate vote shortly thereafter.

"The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America's coal industry," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. "If this rule were allowed to stay in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities."

The stream protection rules would be the first of several recent Obama administration regulations to be targeted by using the fast-track procedures. Former President Barack Obama easily repelled such moves with vetoes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the "'stream buffer' rule is a harmful regulation that unfairly targets coal jobs."

The regulations would have tightened exceptions to a rule that requires a 100-foot buffer between coal mining and streams. It also would require coal companies to restore streams and return mined areas to conditions similar to those before mining took place.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support the rules, saying they would protect people in coal country from health risks from pollutants like mercury.

Pro-industry senators among the measure's numerous sponsors include Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.