Northwest Lawmakers Sharply Split on Coal Mining Rules

By Tom Bacon

Washingtoncongressman Doc Hastings may be retiring at the end of his current term, but that doesn't mean he'll just quietly fade away or put his feet up during his final months as a top operative for the US House GOP. He's charging hard against new coal mining waste rules.

Hastingshas launched a full scale attack on the Obama administration efforts to control dumping of coal mining waste from mountain tops into streams below. His measure - titled "Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America" - would require the Department of the Interior to revert to much weaker regulations  hastily adopted in the final weeks of the Bush administration in 2008.

The senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, calls the Hastings bill "an unconscionable assault on the health of (people) suffering from the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal mining".

DeFazio said that nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried by mining waste with adverse health and environmental impacts, which were ignored by the committee Republicans.
Hastingsclaims the Obama administration has spent and wasted about $9 million over five years trying to write new rules. But DeFazio said that the Hastings' committee demands for documents took more than 19,000 staff hours and cost more than one-and-a-half million dollars.

Hastings' bill is scheduled for a Rule Committee hearing Wednesday before it goes to the House floor for a full-scale vote.
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