The republican’s act would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to prevent the department’s plans to toughen the 100 feet restriction.
HR 2824, the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” was sponsored by Bill Johnson and Doug Lamborn and has been referred to the House Natural Resources Energy and Mining Subcommittee, where it was debated on Friday.
An original 1983 Stream Buffer Zone rule was amended by the Bush administration in 2008 to reduce buffer zones around streams to 100 feet.
The Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining published a federal notice of intent in 2010 to conduct an environmental impact statement for a Stream Protection Rule, which it plans to implement to replace the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule.
This may include more extensive monitoring requirements and further distance restrictions.
The drafting and review of the rule is still underway and Lamborn and his political allies say the process has cost taxpayers millions.
“We need to be clear about the administration’s legacy on their effort to rewrite the Stream Buffer Zone Rule. So far, the administration has spent nearly nine million taxpayer dollars re-writing a rule that was never fully implemented without ever providing sound justification for the need for a new rule,” Lamborn said.
“The legislation will stop the massive ongoing waste currently taking place at the department and save the taxpayer money.
“It responsibly updates the 1983 regulation by improving environmental safeguards and provides regulatory certainty for an important domestic industry; an industry that not only provides great family-wage jobs with good benefits but also provides affordable energy for the American people and the nation’s manufacturing base.”
Alpha Natural Resources environmental vice president John Paul Jones was a witness at the hearing.
In a statement released from the House Committee following the proceedings, Jones called for the Obama Administration to end the “expensive fiasco” of rewriting the regulations
“Office of Surface Mining’s new proposal is unnecessary, unjustified, and dangerous, and certainly does not meet any cost-benefit standard,” Jones said.
National Mining Association president and chief executive officer Hal Quinn has also come out in support of the legislation, saying that it would prevent an “ill-conceived proposal that will only cause more uncertainty and joblessness”
"This bill accomplishes the important task sometimes lacking in public policy: it balances the needs of the economy with the needs of the environment,” Quinn said in a statement.