NMA Strongly Opposes Interior Department’s Duplicative Stream Rule

Trade group seeks prompt congressional action to spare more job losses

WASHINGTON, DC—The National Mining Association (NMA) today expressed its strong opposition to the Interior Department’s stream rule, calling on Congress to swiftly pass a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval and the president to sign it without delay.

The rule, which the Trump Administration has said it opposes and will act to rescind, provides no discernable environmental benefits while duplicating and interfering with extensive existing environmental protections at both the federal and state levels—duplication and interference which is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

“The decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst,” said Hal Quinn, NMA’s president and CEO. “This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule’s development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans.”
Quinn said the rule’s primary purpose appears to be to support the environmental lobby’s “keep it in the ground” platform, locking away important U.S. domestic coal reserves, while putting tens of thousands of Americans out of work, raising energy costs for millions of Americans, and preserving the agency’s regulatory mission that is diminished with the declining number of coal mines.

The rule:
• Disregards State Authority and Expertise. Eight out of 10 states that originally signed on as state cooperating agencies withdrew from their agreements after a four-year period without any dialogue because OSM ignored its legal obligation to consult with the states during the rule’s development.

    o Nineteen states have written letters to OSM urging the agency to comply with congressional mandates and re-engage with the states.

• Duplicates, Contradicts and Creates Confusion Around Established State and Federal Regulations. Extensive environmental protections are currently administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states’ regulatory authorities. SMCRA expressly prohibits rulemaking that creates regulatory overlap resulting in uncertainty through inconsistent requirements.

• Harms U.S. Jobs. A technical analysis of the impact of the proposed rule shows that at least a third of coal related jobs are now at risk owing to the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine. The final rule closely tracks the proposal, so similar impacts are anticipated. Estimated job losses are based upon an independent analysis performed at 36 operating surface and underground mines across the country. By contrast, OSM’s analysis of economic impacts relied upon “hypothetical mines.”

• Blocks Access to Important American Resources. Under the rule, up to 64 percent of total U.S. coal reserves could be off limits to mining nationwide—a result at direct odds with SMCRA, which directs regulatory policies to encourage surface and underground mining.

• Reduces Much-Needed Tax Revenues in Coal Communities and States. Coal mining contributes more than $18.5 billion annually in state and federal tax revenues. The rule is expected to reduce these revenues by between 15 and 35 percent, devastating communities that have already been hit hard by job losses and reduced mining activity. These revenues are a vital source of financing for education, infrastructure, and emergency services in many states which would be forced to find alternate funding or forgo services.