Mountain Top Mining and Sea Lions on Hastings' Congress Agenda

By Tom Bacon

Washington Congressman Doc Hastings is launching a full-scale frontal attack on what he calls President Obama's war on coal. He is also declaring war on hungry sea lions that feed on Columbia River salmon.

As chair of the US House Natural Resources Committee, Hastings has called a vote this week on a bill to block the Interior Department from imposing new tougher regulations on mountaintop removal coal mining projects, mostly in Appalachia. The Obama administration has been trying for years to re-write a controversial Bush-era regulation that allows coal miners to destroy intermittent mountain streams.

The regulation allows mining companies to blast away mountain tops to more easily get at coal veins, and dump  tons of slag and waste rock into gullies below. Hastings and other GOP members of his committee complain that restrictions on the practice will cost thousands of jobs and affordable electricity.
Just last month, Hastings cheered on coal miners at a rally in the capital, telling them that the president made his contempt for coal clear with a regulatory assault on the fuel.

Hastings' committee is also scheduled to take up his own bill which would legalize killing sea lions that congregate at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River to snatch up salmon trying to make it upriver to spawn. The controversial practice of killing the sea lions has been curtailed by court challenges. Hastings' bill would give three states and five indian tribes annual permits to kill 10 sea-lions each.

Both bills are expected to to win approval in the House which is controlled by the GOP, but their fate in the Senate is less certain.
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