Daily Mail editorial: Obama’s stream protection rule a loser on two fronts

The Stream Protection Rule, recently released by the Obama administration, is yet another indication that governing under President Barack Obama has been more about preening before constituency groups than actually accomplishing much for the public.

Thrown into the mix in the last days of the Obama Administration, this new environmental rule is viewed with skepticism by many, including U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has vowed to block its effects.

“The Stream Protection Rule would cause significant harm to both surface and underground coal mines,” Capito said in a news release. “Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility. Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin was not as critical, but wary of the rule still.

“While we all must carefully review this 1,648 page final rule, I want to reiterate that the proposed rule was very alarming in its scope and potential impacts,” Manchin said. “I believe that the manner in which this rule making was executed was flawed and lacked transparency, and I will pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies.

“Rules by the Department of the Interior and OSMRE (Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement) must be based on comprehensive data that is available to stakeholders, particularly when those rules threaten to eliminate thousands of jobs. Furthermore, agencies should not be issuing duplicative rules that overlap with regulations under other environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act.”

Each of the state’s three Republican representatives in the U.S. House denounced Obama’s issuance of the rule as well.

Capito appears to have seen actions like this coming. Recently, she joined 22 of her Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Obama, requesting his administration refrain from issuing new regulations and non-emergency rules as his term winds down. Perhaps he didn’t get the memo.

Granted, this Stream Protection Rule has been a huge project for the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Incredibly, this federal agency has taken nearly the complete two terms of President Obama to rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule from the George W. Bush administration. What took them so long?

The new guidelines more strictly define the “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area” that the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was written to prevent.

If the Obama administration really believed the Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone was woefully inadequate to protect the waterways near a mine site, why did they not expedite the rewrite and have it released sometime earlier in Obama’s two terms in office?

With no clear answer to that, the idea that the president is just taking one more potshot at the coal industry on his way out the door is sure to gain currency.

Source: Daily Mail Opinion Page of the Charleston Gazette-Mail