Trump blocks mine debris rules

Associated Press STRESSING A POINT — President Donald Trump gestures during a news conference Thursday in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has put the brakes on a regulation blocking coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams.

Trump called the regulation a “job-killing rule” before he signed a measure to overturn it. Lawmakers from coal-mining states stood close by, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Reps. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, and Bill Johnson, R-Marietta.

Several coal miners and energy company executives also attended the White House signing ceremony.

Republicans and some Democrats argued the rule could eliminate thousands of coal-related jobs. They said the rule also ignored dozens of existing federal, state and local regulations.

The Interior Department said in December when it announced the rule that 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests would be protected.

After watching Trump sign the resolution of disapproval Congress passed earlier this month, Manchin joined Trump in calling the Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement’s Stream Protection rule a job-killer.

“Not only did the Department of the Interior and OSMRE fail to consult with stakeholders and consider the economic impacts, including the possible elimination of thousands of jobs, but they also refused to acknowledge that the rule conflicted with EPA authority and was duplicative of existing regulations under laws such as the Clean Water Act,” he said.

Capito, also a co-sponsor of the resolution, estimated the rule would have put as many as one-third of nation’s coal-related jobs in jeopardy. She said overturning it “restores states to their proper role as the regulators of mining activities.”

“President Trump today signaled an end to years of overregulation targeting the coal industry and vital jobs in West Virginia,” Capito added.

Johnson, among the sponsors of the resolution on the House side, said the Stream Protection Rule would have made a majority of America’s coal reserves “off-limits.”

“The rule, which served as the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s war on coal, was released by the previous administration as the moving trucks pulled up in December, even after the American people sent a clear message to the Washington Beltway — more regulation from overreaching bureaucracies is not the answer,” he said.

Officials with St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s fifth-largest coal producer, said the Stream Protection Rule would have prevented the use of longwall machines and other mining systems beneath dry ditches, even though the machines are more than 1,000 feet below the surface. Murray Energy Chairman, President and CEO Robert E. Murray called the rule “the single greatest threat” to his employees’ jobs he has seen in his 60 years in the industry.

“This unlawful and destructive rule, as promulgated by the Obama administration, was nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to destroy our nation’s underground coal mines and put our nation’s coal miners out of work,” Murray said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine were part of a 13-state coalition that sued to challenge the regulation in federal court. Morrisey said Thursday he and other attorneys general in the coalition are reviewing the need to continue that lawsuit.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)