The Obama administration Thursday unveiled new standards meant to better protect streams in Appalachia from the controversial mountaintop removal coal mining process.
The proposed rule, from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM), would update three-decade-old standards that create a buffer zone around streams, prohibiting mining activities and waste from getting near them and harming the ecosystem.
Administration officials characterized the rule as a common-sense approach that uses the best available science to protect streams and groundwater from the effects of mining.
But Republicans and industry leaders immediately blasted the rule as part of President Obama’s “war on coal” and challenged the idea that the 1983 standards need updating.
“These regulations are meant to protect human health and welfare by protecting our environment, while helping to meet the nation’s economic needs and supporting economic opportunity,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters Thursday.
“That’s what what Americans expect from their government — a modern and balanced approach to energy development that safeguards our environment, protects water quality, supports the energy needs of the nation, and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future.”
Janice Schneider, Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, called the proposal “commonsense and straightforward reforms that revise a set of regulations that are now more than three decades old,” and added that they are guided by the best science and technology available.
Schneider said the rules provide certainty to miners, with new specificity on which streams are covered and which are not.
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