Federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) officials were in Kentucky this week taking comment on the proposed Stream Protection Rule. The Kentucky Chamber expressed concerns at the hearing that new rules will be overly taxing on the industry and state regulators.
In the latest effort by the federal government to regulate an industry in dire straits, the federal OSMRE has proposed new requirements intended to control the impact of surface mining of coal and surface effects of underground coal mining. The Stream Protection Rule—six years in the making—requires additional collection and analysis of data prior to permitting, during mining, and to achieve bond release.
In response to the additional data analysis requirements, Kate Shanks with the Kentucky Chamber had this to say:
“We are concerned about the rule’s effect on state regulatory agencies. The Kentucky Chamber encourages cooperative federalism because our members know that when federal, state, and local agencies cooperate the best results are achieved. Therefore, we do not want the additional strain on our state regulatory agency to lead to OSMRE oversight of our coal industry.”
Watch the remarks made by Shanks below:
The coal industry has experienced significant declines over the past several years and Kentucky has lost roughly half of its coal jobs since the summer of 2011. Senator Jared Carpenter, co-chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Interim Joint Committee, has been tracking the job losses. “I’m continually hearing about job losses in our coal fields. This rule is another example of the federal government not letting up on their attack on coal,” Carpenter stated.
The Kentucky Coal Association organized its members to attend Thursday night’s hearing but Bill Bissett, President of the Association, doubts that the rule will be revised.
“At every turn, details about these hearings have been vague and slow in coming, which clearly shows that OSM is not really interested in what we are saying. Regardless of this position, it is critical that we make our voices heard against OSM and the Obama Administration as they continue to circumvent Congress and attempt to move this country away from coal production and use by any means necessary,” Bissett said.
The Stream Protection Rule is the latest regulation by the federal government that further attacks the struggling coal industry. Representative Jim Gooch, co-chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Interim Joint Committee, is concerned about the number of rules being put into effect that are targeting coal. “The Stream Protection Rule is just another example of the Obama Administration using every agency to wage a war on coal. Anything they can do whether it’s withholding permits, driving up the cost of permitting, or restricting the use of coal, they will do,” said Rep. Jim Gooch.
Several elected officials spoke at the hearing including Attorney General Jack Conway, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, representatives for both U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and several state legislators.
The federal OSM is taking comments on the proposed rule and the deadline is Sept. 25. More information about the rule and instructions for submitting comments can be found at http://www.osmre.gov/programs/rcm/streamprotectionrule.shtm.