Sen. Mike Lee: One Proposed Regulation Could Kill 77,000 Mining Jobs

Penny Starr | December 9, 2016 | 10:01am EST
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Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) spoke at an energy and climate summit in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 8, 2016. ( Starr)

( – Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Thursday that “one-size-fits-all” federal regulations “need to stop,” citing one such regulation that he says could put as many as 77,000 coal miners out of work.

“Think about that,” Lee said at an energy and climate summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“One regulation – 77,000 jobs destroyed, eliminated, gone forever,” Lee said, noting that an independent analysis of the Interior Department’s proposed Stream Protection Rule estimated that between 40,000 and 77,000 jobs could be lost if the rule is finalized.

“Many of those jobs are in Utah where one operator estimates that the new regulation will cause all three of its longwall mines to shut down completely,” Lee said.

“Now these are real people affected in a very serious way by one rule that was never approved by any democratically elected body,” he added.

Lee said the rule was first proposed to protect waterways in West Virginia where mountaintop mines operate, but the rule would be enforced on coal mining operations across the country, including in Utah were Longwall mines operate.

“This one-size-fits all approach with centralized regulations, which tend to run roughshod over the immense diversity over our regulations, has got to stop,” Lee said.

The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement’s proposed rule states:

“The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has proposed a new rule for regulation of coal mining to take advantage of new advances in science, and to improve the balance between environmental protection and providing for the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy,” the website stated.

“The proposed rule would better protect streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provide mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment,” it stated.

“The proposed rule would revise OSMRE’s regulations to define ‘material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area,’ and require that each permit specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would reach that level of damage,” the website stated.

“The proposed rule would also require mine operators to collect adequate pre-mining data about the site of the proposed mining operation and adjacent areas to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation,” it added.

“The proposed rule would also adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams,” the website stated.

“The rule would also ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, ensure that mine operators and regulatory authorities make use of the most current science and technology, and ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining,” it stated.

“This rule revision updates and codifies the requirements and dispute resolution procedures involved when the proposed permit or adjacent areas contain federally listed threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat,” the website stated. “The proposed changes would apply to both surface mines and the surface effects of underground mines.”

The proposed rule is pending, but the environmental impact statement has been finalized, according to the federal website. The FEIS is 1,679 pages – almost 500 pages longer than the average Bible.

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