The Obama administration finalized new eleventh-hour rules for the coal industry on Monday that are focused on protecting rivers and streams from coal mining practices in states like West Virginia.
"The responsible rule released today represents a modern and balanced approach to meeting the nation's energy needs," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "Regulations need to keep pace with modern mining practices, so we worked closely with many stakeholders to craft a plan that protects water quality, supports economic opportunities, safeguards our environment and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future."
Monday's final regulations were the result of several years of consultation with the coal and mining industry. Although many in the mining industry oppose the regulations, the Interior Department is going forward with the rules despite their almost certain repeal in the next administration.
The new rule updates 33-year old regulations by establishing new requirements for "responsible surface coal mining," which will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over the span of the next 20 years. The industry argues that the rules would limit coal production.
"The decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst," said Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association. "This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule's development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans."
The trade group said President-elect Trump is well aware of the regulation, and it is one he has vowed to repeal in his first 100 days in office.
Members of Congress are vowing to repeal the regulations on day one of the start of the next Congress. "It is disappointing, but certainly not surprising, that the Obama administration has decided to pursue this last-ditch effort to further harm West Virginia coal jobs," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee's energy subcommittee.
"The Stream Protection Rule would cause significant harm to both surface and underground coal mines," she said. "Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today's announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility. Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect."
The review act allows Congress to pass resolutions of disapproval using a simple majority to repeal regulations.
Opposition is also mounting in the House, as Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, has vowed to work with the Trump administration to repeal the regulations.
"The Obama administration jammed this futile, job-killing rule through under the wire," Bishop said. "The only silver lining with today's release is that their eight-year waste of taxpayer money finally comes to an end."
Bishop said he "look[s] forward to working with the Trump administration to overturn this unparalleled executive overreach and implement policies that protect communities forsaken by this administration."