NMA Says Regulation Protects Regulators, Not Streams

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn today issued the following comments on the so-called Stream Protection Rule (SPR) proposed by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM). The agency is currently holding a series of nationwide “public hearings” to solicit comment on the highly controversial regulation.

“The SPR is a massive regulation in search of a purpose, one that is entirely about politics, not stream protection. The Office of Surface Mining is trying hard to maintain its relevance in the face of exemplary performance by the industry and the state regulators.

“These hearings provide the first—albeit limited—opportunity for OSM to address important questions about its massive regulatory rewrite.

“Is this rule about new science as OSM claims, or is it about new politics, as the agency suggested when it said in 2010, ‘We already decided to change the rule following the change in administration on January 20, 2009’?

“Is there any actual need for OSM to rewrite 475 regulations? Under existing rules, 90 percent of all mines have no offsite impacts—and in many states 100 percent of the operations are free of any offsite impacts—according to the federal agency’s oversight reports.

“Is OSM genuinely interested in learning from public comments? The federal agency is invoking a 60/2 format—60 days to file comments on several thousand pages of regulation, and two minutes for statements during the hearings. It appears OSM has already declared the game over—a continuation of its past practice when it shut out the state regulators for over five years during the rulemaking process.

“Where does the rule offer any environmental benefit not already provided by other state and federal agencies under the Clean Water Act and other programs that apply to coal mining? OSM dismisses coal job losses because it assumes that they will be off-set by new jobs needed to ensure compliance with this new massive burden. With almost 40 percent of our electricity originating from American miners, lost coal jobs is not just a miner matter.

“If OSM has accomplished anything in this proposal, it is making a compelling case for why the agency is increasingly unnecessary and irrelevant. Under state regulators who administer Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act for 97 percent of all coal production, off-site impacts have diminished, leaving OSM grasping at the missions of its rival state and federal agencies to feign relevance.

“Congress should examine OSM’s budget and take appropriate action.”