The Coal Mining Stream Buffer Rule Evokes Firestorm of Protest. #getagrip

Political polarization has gotten to the point where there would be immediate denunciations if the President issued a proclamation honoring apple pie. Another intrusion into consumer choice, besmirching those who prefer cherry and pumpkin!  Another blatant overreach by an out-of-control, incipient tyrant!  Not only is every executive action accompanied by loud resistance, but the same explosion of outrage comes with every presidential action, major or minor, knockout punch or paper-cut.

The proposed stream buffer rule is a case in point.  It places some relatively mild restrictions on mountaintop mining.  Dumping is prohibited within a hundred feet of a stream, but there’s an exception for cases where this is a hardship.  The proposed rule has some other requirements for water quality monitoring, a bond to cover restoration costs, and a mandate to restore water quality in streams when the mining is done.  EPA estimates the costs on industry and the loss of jobs as small.  Environmentalists are complaining that the proposal won’t actually make a dent in the practice of destroying mountains in order to extract coal.

I guess it isn’t surprising that the industry is resisting this regulation, which will require some additional costs.  Maybe they’re even right that the proposal is a bad idea.  But still, it doesn’t look like all that big a deal.  You wouldn’t know that, however, from the screams of outrage from politicians. Senator Manchin says it will devastate local economics.  McConnell says it’s “aimed squarely at the lifeblood” of families.  Indeed, he says, “it’s impossible not to conclude that the Obama administration is engaging in all-out economic warfare on these communities,” “It’s no secret that this overreaching rule is designed to help put coal country out of business,” says Senator Barrasso.

So what’s going on here?  Why the panic over a minor league rule?

Well, first of all, as McConnell indicates, it fits into a narrative they’ve already got going about the war on coal.  Second, there’s the constant competition for the news Ccycle, especially for coverage on Fox News.  Third, there’s the competition for campaign contributions from the industry in question.  And finally, some of these people just seem to panic at the drop of a hat.

In short, this a rule that sounds like it’s designed to improve water quality, perhaps modestly, which after all is EPA’s assignment under the Clean Water Act.  Maybe it’s a good rule, maybe not.  But we’re not talking Armageddon here.

Seriously folks.  Get a grip.



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Reader Comments

One Reply to “The Coal Mining Stream Buffer Rule Evokes Firestorm of Protest. #getagrip”

  1. Dan said;
    “……Maybe they’re even right that the proposal is a bad idea. But still, it doesn’t look like all that big a deal….”

    Good point. Right now most of our resources and energy are devoted to killing EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and we are making good progress. This stream buffer rule will have to wait until we have time to deal with it. However, over 27 States have filed lawsuits against EPA’s recent wetlands rules and these lawsuits effectively nullify EPA’s implementation plans. It is quite likely that this little stream buffer rule will fade away and go nowhere. That’s good news because EPA is once again attempting to take land away from landowners to use as buffers without compensation. Never forget that the EPA is evil.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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