CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this week led an effort with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in opposing the federal government’s proposed Stream Protection Rule, which would regulate coal-mining activities near streams.
Their letter, signed by attorneys general in 14 states, calls the proposal a one-size-fits-all approach that immensely broadens the federal government’s authority at the expense of coal mining operations in West Virginia and across the country.
“Such a sweeping ban on coal mining activities is inconsistent with federal law,” Morrisey said. “More importantly it threatens the jobs of countless coal miners across West Virginia. We cannot stand for such overreach. We must vigorously oppose it at every turn.”
Morrisey and others contend the proposal violates multiple federal laws, including the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Clean Water Act and the U.S. Constitution.
“Once again, the Obama Administration is attempting another power-grab by administrative rule,” DeWine said. “Congress saw the wisdom in allowing states to enact local mining regulations. This unlawful rule tries to replace state authority with federal regulations that will have a devastating impact on mining in Ohio and across the nation.”
The proposed rule fails to respect state control over mining regulations as required by Congress and unnecessarily seeks to regulate areas already monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and the individual states.
The proposal also exceeds the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s authority as it would broadly prohibit nearly all mining-related activity in or within 100 feet of various streams, subject longwall mining to permits that are unrealistic, difficult or impossible to meet and set forth increased water sampling requirements that ignore local geology.
The letter, addressed to Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement director Joseph G. Pizarchik, calls upon his agency to withdraw the current proposal, develop common-sense alternatives and actively consult state officials. Morrisey believes such cooperation can assist the agency in drafting a rule that balances environmental protection with an economically healthy coal industry to meet the nation’s energy needs.
Other states that joined in the letter were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.