The Obama administration issued new regulations to protect streams and groundwater from coal mining, a measure that’s targeted for repeal by congressional Republicans.
The industry says the U.S. Interior Department’s so-called stream protection rule will strand billions of dollars worth of coal in the ground. Even before it was issued Monday, President-elect Donald Trump had vowed to rescind it, calling it “excessive.”
The Interior Department says the rule, which updates 33-year-old regulations, will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests primarily in Appalachia. The rule will end practices that permanently pollute streams and drinking water, requiring companies to restore streams once their mining work is complete and to monitor water quality.
“We worked closely with many stakeholders to craft a plan that protects water quality, supports economic opportunities, safeguards our environment and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement released Monday.
Much of the impact of the rule could be felt in hard-hit coal communities in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, where underground mining has been taking place for a century or more. While the administration says this rule will have “negligible impact” on the finances of coal mining companies, industry groups say it would be just one more blow to their chances of survival.
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