Coal Tattoo

About the GOP House mining budget riders …

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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.