Thompson Challenges Obama Administration’s Rewrite of Coal Regulation

New federal rule could cost 220,000 jobs in the Appalachia region alone

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Committee yesterday held an oversight hearing on the status of the Obama Administration’s rewrite of a sweeping coal regulation known as the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, during which U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson questioned Joseph Pizarchik, director of Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), on the lack of transparency governing of the rulemaking process and the potential for huge economic losses under the new regulation.

“This entire process has lacked transparency and failed to even consider the full impact that this regulation will have upon local economies in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Thompson stated.

For more than two years, the committee has conducted an ongoing investigation into the Obama Administration’s rewrite of the rule.  The OSM is the chief federal office in charge of the rule’s rewrite.

The committee released a report on the issue last year, which detailed the rushed and unorthodox rulemaking process at the OSM, including attempts to conceal the rule’s full economic impacts.  Specifically, the report found that between 133,441 and 273,227 jobs are at risk as a result of this proposed rule with between 55,120 and 79,870 losses in direct mining jobs.  Furthermore, the report found that as many as 220,000 jobs are at risk in the Appalachia region alone as a consequence of the proposed rule.

“The conduct of OSM is emblematic of the Obama Administration’s complete disregard for the health of our economy,” Thompson added. “This White House will stop at no end to bend the rules and assault the coal industry along with the millions of jobs it supports.”

The Interior Department has largely stonewalled the committee’s investigation into the rewrite of the coal regulation and failed to comply with multiple subpoenas for specific documents.

Thompson pressed Pizarchik on the OSM’s “plan for seeking input from state cooperating agencies between now and the time the stream protection rule’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is published for public comment in 2014.”

Pizarchik, the chief officer in charge of the rewrite, which began in 2008, stated he does not believe there have been any contacts during the last year with states or other cooperating agencies.

DOI regulations require that OSM collaborate “to the fullest extent possible” with all cooperating agencies, including states.

“Have the cooperating agencies been provided with the new draft alternatives that OSM is considering?” Thompson added. Pizarchik was unaware of any such communications.

DOI regulations also require that OSM collaborate with cooperating agencies “at the earliest possible time,” so that all stakeholders can evaluate the rule and consider possible alternatives.

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