Coal Producers Face New Stream Protection Rule From Interior – by Mark Drajem (Bloomberg News – July 16, 2015)

Coal producers would be subject to new restrictions under an Obama administration proposal that would limit operations near streams and curb the disposal of waste, a plan that had been criticized even before it was issued.

The proposal from the Interior Department’s surface mining office, released Thursday, would replace a Bush-era regulation that was tossed out by a federal court. The rule would require companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk or threaten forests.

“As we engage in mining, let’s do so in a way that helps mitigate the impact they can have on the environment,” Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said on a conference call. The rules would provide “a modern and balanced approach to energy development,” she said.

The rules won’t take effect until finalized, probably next year. They are meant to deal with the destruction of streams, watersheds, endangered species and forests tied to mountaintop mining for coal.

Environmental advocates had pushed President Barack Obama to end that practice altogether. Instead, after six years of internal deliberations and public debate, the department proposed rules that would require coal companies to test streams before operating and restore them to their previous levels of health when mining is completed.

Republican Criticism

Even before it was issued, the plan drew fire from representatives of mining companies such as Peabody Energy Corp. and Republican lawmakers, who argue that Obama administration’s is taking aim at mountaintop mining operations in Appalachia with an unnecessarily costly rule.

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