The rule will require companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation, unless that would conflict with the implemented land use. The rule requires the testing and monitoring of the condition of streams that might be affected by mining — before, during and after their operations — to provide baseline data that ensures operators can detect and correct problems that could arise, and restore mined areas to their previous condition.
The final Stream Protection Rule will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The National Mining Association (NMA) expressed its opposition to the DOI’s stream rule, calling on Congress to swiftly pass a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval and for the president to sign it.
The rule, which the mining industry hopes President-elect Donald Trump’s administration 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, the NMA said.
“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.”
The NMA also feels the rule is duplicative, with environmental protections already being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states’ regulatory authorities. Also, under the rule, up to 64% of total U.S. coal reserves could be off limits to mining nationwide. The NMA also said the job losses and loss in tax revenue in coal states would be severe
“Coal mining contributes more than $18.5 billion annually in state and federal tax revenues,” the NMA said. “The rule is expected to reduce these revenues by between 15% and 35%, devastating communities that have already been hit hard by job losses and reduced mining activity.”
The rule can be viewed here.