Mitch McConnell is getting ready to unravel Obama's coal rules

As part of the President’s eleventh hour surge of new rules which are intended to hamstring any reforms sought by the Trump administration, the Interior Department recently rolled out a new “stream protection” order. This move would once again vastly expand the definition of open waters and restrict industrial activity which might, in theory, impact them under the Clean Water Act. The long and the short of it was yet another barrier to any sort of coal mining in the country. Rather than waiting for new leadership to rewrite everything, go through an extensive period of public comment and court challenges and eventually counter the regulation, the Senate Majority Leader announced this week that he was going to head this situation off at the pass. (Washington Examiner)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is vowing to reverse the Obama administration’s final stream-protection rule, a regulation released Monday aimed at trying to protect water resources from coal and other surface mining contamination.

McConnell on Monday said he plans to use a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act to introduce a resolution of disapproval next month to “overturn this egregious regulation and work with my colleagues to use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country.

“The president’s eight-year war on coal has wrecked the lifeblood of the economy and the livelihoods of coal country workers and their families,” McConnell said.

The little used procedure McConnell is referring to is the Congressional Review Act, introduced back during the Clinton era as part of the Contract With America. It was put forward as a tool to protect small businesses from onerous government regulations which they would generally lack the resources to fight. It is employed by getting a joint resolution from both the House and the Senate which defines a particular rule enacted by an executive branch agency and essentially stomps on it with the following statement.

“That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the __ relating to __, and such rule shall have no force or effect.” (The blank spaces being appropriately filled in).

It doesn’t eliminate the rule as such. It simply declares that the rule won’t be enforced, effectively neutering it.

This welcome change of tactics (assuming McConnell can pull it off) comes at the same time that environmentalists are getting ready to jump off a cliff when considering a Trump presidency. These fears are showing up in reports on the future of so-called “environmental justice,” particularly with Scott Pruitt taking over the EPA. (Government Executive)

Given Pruitt’s hostility to EPA policy and President-elect Trump’s stated positions on climate change, energy and regulation in general, the direction of federal environmental policy is about to shift abruptly.

This change in policy also has potentially enormous ramifications for the EPA’s efforts to promote environmental justice. Over the past year, the lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s public water supply and the protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access oil pipeline have provided stark reminders that environmental burdens are often borne disproportionately by low-income and minority communities.

During the Obama administration, the EPA has made achieving environmental justice a key priority.

So called “environmental justice” was a code term which implied that any level of regulatory action by the EPA, Interior or other executive branch departments which sought to protect jobs and our domestic energy supply could be defined as a way to hurt poor people. (Don’t ask me… I’m just reading this nonsense and reporting on it.) The fact that everyone shares the same air, water and land in the grand scale of things doesn’t seem to come into this sort of thinking. But such enlightened and nuanced ideas will probably find some tough sledding ahead of them over at least the next four years. Trump promised to do something for the coal miners and to encourage domestic energy production and American dominance in this industry. It appears, at least for now, that the Senate GOP leadership is onboard with helping him deliver on those promises.


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David Strom 8:41 PM on March 20, 2023