Stream Protection Rule

The Stream Protection Rule helps to make sure communities do not get stuck with the horrible consequences of toxic water pollution from industrial coal mining operations.

This rule has been repealed.

H.J. Res. 38 was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
S.J. Res. 10 was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Credit: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

OVERVIEW

The Stream Protection Rule, finalized by the U.S. Department of the Interior in December 2016, provides communities with basic information they desperately need about toxic water pollution caused by nearby coal mining operations.

The rule was enacted due to the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal mining, one of the most destructive forms of coal mining, which threatens community drinking water supplies across the country. Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal mining to health impacts such as elevated birth defects and deaths from cancer.

In Appalachia, mountaintop removal mining has been responsible for the destruction of 2,000 miles of streams and 2.5 million acres of Appalachia’s ancient forests. In the semi-arid West, coal mining impacts scarce water resources that farmers and ranchers depend on; in Alaska, vital salmon streams are often located in immediate proximity to coal deposits.

Communities impacted by coal mining have been waiting for too long for updated rules, which will now provide them with some of the necessary tools to hold coal companies accountable for the toxic contaminants they dump into waterways. It is vital that these commonsense, modest protections are kept in place to aid communities from Appalachia to Alaska. The Stream Protection Rule is the product of more than eight years of work, incorporating input from a wide range of industry, state, community and environmental stakeholders, and it received more than 100,000 public comments.

IMPACTS

The Stream Protection Rule impacts communities from Appalachia to Alaska. Below are statements from people who have been affected by coal mining operations and groups that have been fighting for protections from polluting industry practices for years.

Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch:

“Thousands of acres of ongoing mountaintop removal operations continue to damage Appalachian communities’ health, water and viability. Regulatory agencies such as the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection continue to grant new permits and fail to hold coal companies accountable for their pollution. We need stronger regulations, but the coal companies would rather they have no regulation whatsoever. We need this rule to give the citizens a tool to hold them accountable and protect our fragile water resources.”

Steve Charter, former chair of Northern Plains Resource Council, who ranches above a longwall coal mine outside Shepherd, Montana:

“Water is a precious resource in the semi-arid West. It’s the lifeblood of agriculture. The Stream Protection Rule is an important step toward protecting ranches like mine and those of my neighbors, so we can stay on our land and pass it down to future generations.”

OPPONENTS

The Stream Protection Rule is a modest, commonsense rule that primarily protects water for communities living near coal mining operations. However, the coal industry has politicized this rule to be about killing jobs. The coal industry — and the members of Congress they have in their back pocket — argues that this rule would cost 78,000 mining jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 83,000 coal mining jobs in the country. If anything, coal pollution threatens jobs.

The Stream Protection Rule would actually increase jobs. The Department of the Interior assessment concluded that the rule will result in the creation of an annual average of 156 new full time jobs between 2020 and 2040.

This rule has been targeted by both House and Senate Republican leadership for no reason other than that they put the interests of the coal industry above public health. While these members of Congress may argue that regulations are killing coal jobs, it is actually competing sources of energy that have caused the decline.

Even U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has conceded that repealing safeguards like the Stream Protection Rule would not bring back coal jobs. It’s no surprise that the same Republicans leading the charge on this repeal are also deep in the pockets of the coal industry.

TABLE: Political Spending by Opponents of the Stream Protection Rule

Industry/Group Lobbying Political Spending % Political Spending to Republicans
Coal mining industry $8,402,870 (2015) $13,418,362 (2016) 97%
Electric utilities $117,925,015 (2015) $27,167,231 (2016) 68%
National Association of Manufacturers $16,950,000 (2015) $39,112 (2016) 96%
Railroads $29,345,979 (2015) $10,126,525 (2016) 64%
 U.S. Chamber  $79,205,000 (2016)  $29,420,085 (2016) 99%

 

CONTACTS

Jessica Hodge, Earthjustice, jhodge@earthjustice.org, (202) 745-5201

Michael Kelly, Clean Water Action, mkelly@cleanwater.org, (202) 393-5449

NEWS AND RESOURCES

Where Do We Stand After 50 Days of the Trump Administration?
American Rivers: March 17, 2017

Daines Wrong to Oppose Streams Rule
The Billings Gazzette: March 8, 2017

Stream Protection Rule Protects Montana
The Missoulian: March 3, 2017

Stream Protection Rule Declared (Almost) Dead: Now What?
Bloomberg BNA: February 14, 2017

Stream Protection Rule Fact Sheet
Center for American Progress: February 2, 2017

Clean Water Protections Under Attack in Early Days of 115th Congress
Earthjustice: January 31, 2017

Oppose Attacks on Stream Protection Rule Community Sign On Letter
70 Local, Regional and National Groups: January 25, 2017

Fact Sheet on Impacts of Resolution of Disapproval on Stream Protection Rule
Earthjustice: January 26, 2017

Images of Mountaintop Removal Mining