About the GOP House mining budget riders …

February 22, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

As mentioned earlier, I was out for a few days, allowing me to miss all the fun in Washington, D.C., with the Republican House budget legislation and its various riders to block environmental initiatives of the Obama administration (see here and here for general summaries, focused mostly on the greenhouse gas rules).

There were four coal-specific riders worth noting here:

Defunding EPA’s water quality guidance —  An amendment numbered 109 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit use of funds to the EPA, the Corps of Engineers, or the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement may be used to carry out, implement, administer, or enforce any policy or procedure set forth in the memorandum issued by the EPA. See roll call vote here.

Prohibiting EPA from vetoing fill permits — An amendment numbered 216 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds used by the Administrator of the EPA to carry out section 404(c) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. See roll call vote here.

Stopping OSMRE’s stream protection rule — An amendment numbered 498 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to be used to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce proposed regulations published June 18, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 34,667) by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior. See roll call vote here.

Defunding EPA’s effort to regulate toxic coal ash — An amendment numbered 217 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds by EPA to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation. See roll call vote here.

All four of these amendments passed and were part of the government funding resolution that the full House approved. The whole bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate and a veto threat from the White House.

As I was catching up on all of this today, one thing that jumped out at me was the statement issued by my good friend, Rep. Nick J. Rahall of West Virginia.

Now, while he voted against the overall budget measure, Rep. Rahall was one of only a handful of Democrats in the House who voted with the Republican majority on each of this pro-coal industry amendments. His office put out this statement:

I must cast my vote against this continuing resolution, but I do so recognizing that there are some positive items in the bill that I strongly support.

For example, I support the language in the bill to prohibit funding for EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, and the amendment adopted to prohibit the EPA from revoking previously approved permits through 404(c) process. I support the language to prohibit implementation of the excessive IRS 1099 reporting requirements on small businesses included in the health care bill. I have cosponsored legislation to advance all of these initiatives.

I like that this legislation has the Congress taking a firmer control of the regulatory reins at the executive agencies, especially the EPA. In addition to limiting greenhouse gas regulations, amendments were adopted, which I supported, to limit improper EPA guidance documents and to ensure more reasonable regulations related to the Stream Protection Rule being drafted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Also, the bill prohibits funding for the White House officials that coordinate health care and climate control policies across the Federal government, the so-called White House czars. We need to ensure that the statutory heads of agencies, whose actions are supposed to be open to public comment and review, are the ones making policy, and not some anonymous White House aide.

We must tighten our budgetary belt, but I cannot vote against so many programs that are vital to the long-term economy of southern West Virginia.

This Continuing Resolution would cut tens of millions of dollars from clean coal research, which is critical to the long-term coal economy in southern West Virginia. It sends a terrible message to cut this funding when other nations are investing deeply in coal technologies and in the promise that coal can be an affordable, abundant, and clean energy source for the future.

The part that I tripped over? Where Rep. Rahall said his vote on the OSMRE rider was in favor of legislation:

… To ensure more reasonable regulations related to the Stream Protection Rule being drafted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Go back and read the amendment:

An amendment numbered 498 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to be used to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce proposed regulations published June 18, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 34,667) by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the Federal Register notice in which OSMRE announced its plans for a more detailed study of ways to rewrite the stream “buffer zone” rule that was basically eliminated by the Bush administration.

I’m not a member of Congress or an experienced legislative aide, but I can’t find a darned thing in that amendment that says anything about OSMRE writing “more reasonable regulations” to replace the Bush administration gutting of the buffer zone rule. Rather, the amendment prohibits OSMRE from spending any money to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce any regulations of the sort discussed in that Federal Register notice.

Rep. Rahall wasn’t voting to have OSMRE develop a “more reasonable” regulation. He was voting to stop them from developing any regulation. I’m not sure why he didn’t just say so.


6 Responses to “About the GOP House mining budget riders …”

  1. PlethoDon Juan says:

    Just a few steps closer to delineating Appalachia a “National Sacrifice Zone”. Personally I hesitate working towards environmental improvements in a place where most of the people hate me for what I do and then fill their yards and streams with trash. Yet, I get out of bed each day not because it is easy but because it is a challenge. The real losers here are the good citizens of Kentucky and West Virginia. Coal mining needs to happen but if it is not done in an environmentally sound fashion then the true cost of coal is subsidized by destroying the headwater streams, mountain peaks and ridges, forest habitat, and local drinking water sources. Good luck Appalachia…you’ll need it in these insane days ahead.

  2. concerned miner says:

    PlethoDon Juan

    Are you saying you are here to take care of us “natives” because we are not smart enough or motivated enough to take care of ourselves?

  3. Tony Turley says:

    I grew up and live in this state, yet I have never understood the mentality that it is OK to turn one’s yard into an open waste dump. If clean water and air are not important to us, what hope do our children have?

  4. ek.climb says:

    I doubt that the provisions have a good chance of making it through the Senate and the White House, but their success in the House is frightening nonetheless. Mining in Appalachia has instigated enough devastation to the health of the ecosystem and residents already, despite the EPA’s ability to veto fill permits. These recent initiatives would only speed up the decline of the Appalachian ecosystem and mining communities. Congress must make a stronger commitment to preventing the environmental injustice occurring in this part of the country. The Clean Water Act will be effectively nullified in this area if these provisions are passed.

  5. rhmooney3 says:

    The Obama administration has gotten the message and has already made adjustments — Carol Browner’s fast departure just before the State of the Union was a big one.

    The big battles will be with unions, collective bargining units and those on pensions as they are going to lose out the most from budget cutting.

    The battle front in Wisconsin will expand quickly.

    Don’t expect a government shutdown, but the next continuing resolution will slash funding so that little will done except to keep the doors open.

  6. Monty says:

    I would have to agree with rhmooney3 with regards to a government shutdown – having just come back from some DC workshops and extended watercooler talk with employees at numerous federal agencies. They are all gritting their teeth for what is coming – a year or more of subsistence living with enough money to keep the lights on and do the absolute bare minimum with things like Social Security (gotta keep those checks going out!) and the other entitlement programs, NOTHING new, and bureaucratic paralysis that will make the Ice Age look like a red hot disco party. All part of the Republican plan for a total tripod takeover by 2012.

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