Recent actions by President Trump and Congressional Republicans strongly indicate that the president intends to make good on repeated promises to take dramatic action to revitalize the coal industry. Perhaps most important among these recent steps, last month President Trump signed legislation to kill the so-called Stream Protection Rule. The action permanently revokes the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule (SPR), a regulation finalized in the last days of the Obama administration, which sought to protect waterways from coal mining waste.
Congress approved the killing of the rule via the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a 1996 law seldom used until recently, which allows Congress to end administrative restrictions placed by executive agencies in a prior administration. The CRA further prohibits Congress from passing similar legislation in the future. Although the demise of the SPR does little to directly bolster coal production, it does provide welcome relief from burdensome regulatory requirements for an industry already suffering from regulatory pressure and a market downturn.