Trump moves toward relief from water rule that threatens coal industry, farmers

Paul Rand (R-KY)

From my first days representing Kentucky in the U.S. Senate, I pledged to fight back against the Obama administration’s war on Kentucky coal, which imposed suffocating regulations on our hardworking miners and their families.

While we may have once used words such as “struggling” and “devastated” to report on the state of our coal industry, I think it’s time for a new outlook and description: “optimistic.”

We’ve rarely, if ever, seen a positive news story about Eastern Kentucky’s coal industry over the past eight years, but we learned last month that a mine in Knott County is set to reopen, bringing at least 60 new jobs to the area. They hope to double that number in the near future.

Knott County is just one early example of the opportunity that awaits Kentucky, and it demonstrates one of the key reasons why I have led the efforts to repeal the stifling overregulation that has plagued Kentucky’s coal industry.

With the new administration joining in our efforts to lift major roadblocks, I’m excited about the possibilities for revitalizing our coal industry in the years ahead.

While the battle we have waged against the war on coal has spanned several years, many of our biggest wins so far have come in the first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s new administration. Last month, the president eagerly signed legislation I co-sponsored to repeal the Stream Protection Rule.

Before its repeal, the Stream Protection Rule’s provisions included prohibiting coal mining within 100 feet of streams and shutting down surface mining if an animal species that was merely being proposed for listing as endangered or threatened was present in or near the mine.

It also allowed federal bureaucrats to preempt and overrule state permitting standards. The National Mining Association had estimated that the rule endangered one-third of coal-related jobs and could have cost billions in lost federal and state tax revenue.

In addition to cosponsoring the repeal legislation, I previously wrote letters to the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining demanding changes to the rule, and I cosponsored the STREAM Act in the 114th Congress to delay the rule’s implementation. After our efforts, finally having this rule repealed is a huge victory for Kentucky.

Following the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule, the president recently signed an executive order calling for a review and reconsideration of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule, which has been a top priority for both the coal industry and Kentucky’s farmers.

Trump’s order requested the term “navigable waters” be redefined in a manner consistent with the Scalia opinion in Rapanos v. United States. Since that definition is identical to the one already used in my Defense of Environment and Property Act, I mailed a copy of my bill to newly confirmed Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt to assist in the rewriting.

I originally introduced the Defense of Environment and Property Act to push back on the Obama administration EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ WOTUS rule because it significantly expanded the definition of waters in the U.S. to include non-navigable waters, certain dry land, drains, ditches, small ponds and even depressions in fields that are only wet after heavy rains.

To address such an outrageous rule that could essentially affect every mine permit in the country, my legislation called for defining navigable waters as navigable-in-fact and relatively permanent bodies of water.

Repealing the WOTUS rule, one of the most egregious examples of government overreach on Kentucky miners, has always been a top priority of mine, and I applaud the president for continuing his efforts to provide regulatory relief to all Americans.

These swift and recent positive developments in rolling back the regulations responsible for so much loss and devastation in Kentucky are a sign of the many opportunities for our commonwealth going forward.

I promised to lead the fight against Obama’s war on coal in Kentucky. While I am extremely proud of my record in keeping that promise, I am even more proud to reaffirm my commitment to working on your behalf to ensure a brighter future for Kentucky.

Rand Paul of Bowling Green represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate.

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