This week, the Natural Resources Committee has “invited” Ken Salazar and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Director Joseph Pizarchik to come down for a little chat with Congress to talk about the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 10, 2012 – Today, as part of a more than yearlong investigation into the Obama Administration’s rewrite of a 2008 coal regulation, the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, that could cost thousands of jobs, negatively impact the economies of 22 states and significantly harm American energy production, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) sent a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Director Joseph Pizarchik inviting them to testify at a July 19th oversight hearing.

The hearing will examine 1) the current status of the proposed rewrite and the status of the court settlement agreement providing for the rewrite, and 2) the failure of the Department to comply to date with two subpoenas for documents on the rewrite.

What’s that you say? You haven’t heard about the Stream Buffer Zone Rule? A little background:

Almost immediately after taking office, the Obama Administration began rewriting a recently completed coal regulation, the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule (Rule). This unnecessary action, carried out through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) at the Department of the Interior, proposed to dramatically alter a regulation that that took over five years of environmental analysis and careful scientific consideration to complete.

Despite the fact that a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was conducted for the 2008 Rule, OSM hired another contractor to write an entirely new EIS for the Obama Administration’s efforts to rewrite the Rule. An Associated Press story revealed that this draft EIS concluded that the Obama Administration’s regulation could cost over 7,000 mining jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states. Shortly after this information was made public, the Obama Administration criticized and dismissed the contractor it had selected to conduct this analysis.

So what can be done about this? Well, for one thing, Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06) already has some legislation on the table which can help. And you can help by supporting this effort. It’s HR. 3409 – The Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act. Here’s the details:

Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act – Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior, before December 31, 2013, from issuing or approving any proposed or final regulation under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 that would: (1) adversely impact employment in coal mines in the United States; (2) cause a reduction in revenue received by the federal government or any state, tribal, or local government, by reducing through regulation the amount of coal in the United States that is available for mining; (3) reduce the amount of coal available for domestic consumption or for export; (4) designate any area as unsuitable for surface coal mining and reclamation operations; or (5) expose the United States to liability for taking the value of privately owned coal through regulation.

Co-sponsors

Rep Bartlett, Roscoe G. [R-MD-6] – 12/1/2011
Rep Berg, Rick [R-ND] – 1/18/2012
Rep Bucshon, Larry [R-IN-8] – 11/17/2011
Rep Capito, Shelley Moore [R-WV-2] – 1/25/2012
Rep Flores, Bill [R-TX-17] – 11/22/2011
Rep Gosar, Paul A. [R-AZ-1] – 3/5/2012
Rep Harper, Gregg [R-MS-3] – 11/22/2011
Rep Harris, Andy [R-MD-1] – 11/16/2011
Rep Kelly, Mike [R-PA-3] – 11/17/2011
Rep LaTourette, Steven C. [R-OH-14] – 12/1/2011
Rep McKinley, David B. [R-WV-1] – 11/22/2011
Rep Roe, David P. [R-TN-1] – 11/17/2011
Rep Rogers, Harold [R-KY-5] – 11/17/2011
Rep Rokita, Todd [R-IN-4] – 11/22/2011
Rep Shuster, Bill [R-PA-9] – 11/29/2011
Rep Stivers, Steve [R-OH-15] – 11/16/2011
Rep Tiberi, Patrick J. [R-OH-12] – 11/22/2011
Rep Young, Don [R-AK] – 11/22/2011

I had the opportunity to interview Congressman Johnson by phone this past week. He remains completely civil and focused, very well informed and ready to tackle the issue. His concerns over the impact of these warped regulations don’t come across as political, but a sincere effort to stave off yet another “kick in the gut” for this economy. For him, it’s all about the jobs and the strained budgets of struggling Americans who will have to pay the tab on all this.

There’s the facts. You should know what to do from here on out. Ohio will feel a tremendous negative impact from this back door maneuver, but they are hardly the only state which currently relies on coal for tens of thousands of jobs and a large percentage of its energy. A sudden upswing in utility prices and more people on the unemployment lines are precisely what we don’t need right now. Let’s get on this one.