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The House voted earlier today to prevent the Obama administration from re-writing stream-protection regulations around coal mining and to force it to use a rule developed by the Bush administration in December 2008 (a parting gift) that was thrown out earlier this year by a federal court.

Pete DeFazio (OR-04), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Madeline Bordallo (Guam)—all from the Natural Resources Committee—wrote the following dissent:

This bill is an unwarranted ambush on an ongoing rulemaking process, an uncharacteristic attack by the Majority on the principle of federalism and states' rights, and an unconscionable assault on the health of the residents of Appalachian communities suffering from the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

As documented by a 2005 Environmental Impact Statement, nearly 2,000 miles of streams were buried or degraded by mountaintop removal mining from 1985 through 2002. Mountaintop removal mining destroys wildlife habitat, contaminates surface and drinking water, leads to flooding, and as a number of new studies show, increases the incidence of cancer, birth defects, lung disease, and heart disease in people who live nearby.

Unfortunately, the Majority has willfully ignored the negative health and environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining. Instead, they have trained their fire on the Obama Administration's attempts to write a rule that would actually protect streams, as opposed to the illegal Bush Administration's midnight rule that undermined existing protections put in place by President Reagan, and was recently vacated by a U.S. district court.

H.R. 2824 attempts to prevent the Office of Surface Mining from moving forward with a new rule, before a draft rule has even been published or debated. Further, the bill forcibly enacts the 2008 Bush rule in every state with a coal mining program, regardless of whether the state prefers to maintain stricter standards, and despite the fact that the rule was vacated on February 20, 2014, by the D.C. District Court. Requiring the states to adopt a vacated rule will result in a tremendous waste of state resources, as the states could be forced into litigation immediately upon adoption, and then would be required to adopt the new rule when it is finalized.

Finally, the bill's mandatory implementation period means that no attempt could be made to protect Appalachian streams from mountaintop removal mining before 2021. In the meantime, streams will continue to get buried, habitat will continue being destroyed, threatened and endangered species will continue being harmed, and communities throughout the region will continue to suffer from degraded water quality, flooding, and health impacts.

We strongly oppose H.R. 2824, a bill that would force states to enact an illegal rule and prohibit the Administration from implementing thoughtful protections for the environment and communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

(emphases added)

The bill passed 229 to 192. 219 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted for it. 185 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted against it.

The 10 Democrats who voted for the bill were the following:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Bobby Scott (VA-03)

The 7 Republicans who voted against the bill were the following:

Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
David Reichert (WA-08)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)
Frank Wolf (VA-10)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) proposed an amendment requiring the government to use a 1983 rule (which Democrats argued did a better job at protecting waterways from pollution) instead of the 2008 one. It failed 188 to 231.

Two Republicans--Chris Gibson (NY-19) and David Reichert (WA-08)--voted for it.

Six Democrats voted against it:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

Matt Cartwright (PA-17) proposed an amendment that would have ended the ability of states to issue their own stream buffer rules if they don't exceed federal rules. It failed 196 to 225.

Six Republicans voted for it:

Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
David Reichert (WA-08)
Tom Rice (SC-07)
Scott Rigell (VA-02)

Five Democrats voted against it:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

The bill is not going anywhere in the Senate. Harry Reid is not likely to bring it up, and the White House opposes it:

"Updates in the proposed rule will reflect the significant technological and scientific advances in mining practices that avoid, minimize, and mitigate environmental damage from coal mining," the White House said. "H.R. 2824 does not adequately address the community, environmental, and health impacts of strip mining."

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