N.D. Congressman: Legislation will protect mining jobs
March 27, 2014
The House of Representatives on March 25 passed a bill co-sponsored by Congressman Kevin Cramer to save taxpayer dollars and protect jobs by ending the Obama Administration's attempts to rewrite and drastically expand coal mining regulation. The Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act would require the Department of Interior to instead use the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which was finalized after five years of scientific study and more than 43,000 public comments. Cramer spoke on the House floor this afternoon in favor of its passage.
The Stream Buffer Zone Rule regulates the amount of distance required between coal mining activity and water sources. Two environmental groups filed lawsuits against the Department of the Interior before it could take effect. Shortly after taking office, President Obama settled the lawsuit through a regulatory technique his administration frequently employs, known as "sue and settle". As a result of the settlement, the administration has proceeded to spend more than $8.6 million writing a sweeping overhaul of the regulation, now known as the Stream Protection Rule.
Multiple studies confirm the planned Stream Protection Rule would eliminate jobs in the United States. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the Obama Administration estimates 7,000 coal mining jobs would be lost, and 22 states would suffer economic harm. A private sector study published in March 2012 estimates a direct mining job loss between 55,120 and 79,870. Further, it would be the largest rulemaking in the 30-year history of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).
"Skyrocketing energy prices and bankrupt coal companies are stated goals of the Obama Administration. This legislation will protect North Dakota energy consumers and coal jobs against the devastating impact of this massive new rule," said Cramer.
"This bill ends years of uncertainty with a simple, common sense approach that protects jobs and the environment. It allows a rule developed through years of study and public comment to stand and stops the attempts of this Administration to enact a rule crafted in secret negotiations. Congressman Cramer understands that without this bill, thousands of jobs will be at risk as well as continued access to the resources that provide North Dakota with a reliable power supply," said Jason Bohrer, President and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council.
In recent Congressional hearings, Cramer has questioned Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Director Joseph Pizarchik and Assistant Inspector General of Investigations, Robert Knox on the lack of transparency in the regulatory process. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) today issued a subpoena to Department of the Interior Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall for an unredacted copy of the Inspector General report covering the ongoing rewrite, following multiple requests from Cramer and the rest of the committee.
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Prior to his election to Congress, Cramer was a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission where he carried the SMCRA portfolio, which is responsible for oversight of over 100,000 acres of coal mines under permit. F