Mr. WEINER. I have an amendment at the desk.
The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Mr. JOHNSON of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would stop the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement from going forward with a proposed revision to the stream buffer rule that could, according to the Obama administration's own analysis, eliminate up to 29,000 coal industry and industry-related jobs, cut coal mining production by 50 percent, and increase the cost of electricity for families and businesses.
In December 2008, OSM issued a clarification of the stream buffer zone rules after a 5-year process that included 40,000 public comments, two proposed rules, and 5,000 pages of environmental analysis from five different agencies.
The final rule clarified and codified coal surface mining practices that had been in effect for over 30 years, but an entry in the Federal Registry from June 2009 shows that early in the first days of the Obama administration, the decision was made to reopen the carefully crafted and properly vetted stream buffer zone rule. The proposed sweeping regulatory action would radically alter the definition of a stream as well as how the agency measures material damage outside of the permit area. To
date, the agency has provided no studies, no data or support to justify these radical changes.
Given the complete lack of justification, analysis, or rationale for these proposed changes, it can be said that this is a political decision and not one based on science or fact, and this flies in the face of the administration's pledge to base rulemaking decisions on science and not on political factors.
Furthermore, several States have expressed serious concerns about the need and justification for the proposal. Mr. Chairman, the unemployment rate in my home State of Ohio is 9.6 percent. In parts of eastern and southeastern Ohio that I represent, we have double-digit unemployment. The average unemployment in the 12 counties I represent is 10.9 percent. There are entire communities that depend largely on the coal industry, both for direct and indirect jobs, and these jobs would be threatened
by this proposed rules change.
To be clear, my amendment does not stop the issuance of permits nor does it prevent OSM, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the EPA from their regulatory responsibilities. My amendment would simply prohibit any funding to be spent on developing, carrying out, or implementing this ill-conceived proposed job-killing rule.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support my amendment to stop the Obama administration from going forward with a regulation that will result in thousands of hardworking Americans losing their jobs.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MORAN. Mr. Chairman, this amendment stops the Interior Department from protecting nearby streams and rivers from the toxic disposal of coal mine waste. So let me give you the top seven reasons why this amendment should be defeated.
One, it will allow for the continued destruction of America's forests and native vegetation contrary to the statutory requirement to protect that vegetation.
Two, it will interfere with the new requirement for the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Act, preventing the updating of regulations based upon the best science available.
Three, it will perpetuate the uncertainties that citizens and industry and State regulators are currently experiencing under outdated regulations.
Four, it will continue to allow the worst of the coal mine operators to destroy and pollute America's streams and, by doing so, gain a competitive advantage over the responsible operators.
Five, it will deny the State regulatory officials the ability to issue permits that would withstand legal challenge.
Six, it will prevent the gathering of information needed to predict adverse impacts to land and water resources.
And seven, it will prevent the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act process which provides valuable information to enable an informed decision to be made as to the best alternatives to protect society and the environment while helping to meet America's energy needs.
So that's why I would oppose the Johnson amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. Thank you for yielding, and I appreciate the gentleman offering this much-needed amendment.
Almost immediately after taking office, Mr. Chairman, the administration put a bull's-eye on Appalachian coal from every angle, including from the OSM. As a representative of Appalachian Kentucky, like Ohio where the gentleman is from, we're losing thousands of jobs because of these policies. And now, by its own admission, the OSM and the U.S. Department of the Interior are placing 7,000 mining jobs across the country on the chopping block, representing 9 percent of the industry, by reopening
the long-settled stream protection rule.
And so I congratulate the gentleman for bringing this to our attention with this amendment. A report that was leaked by OSM indicates amending this rule will cause coal production to drop drastically or remain stagnant in 22 States. So it comes as no surprise to me that officials from Kentucky, West Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin, Texas, and others have blasted this proposal as nonsensical and difficult to follow.
Mr. Johnson has the right idea with this amendment, which would prohibit OSM from moving forward with this rule during this fiscal year. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. JOHNSON of Ohio. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just want to take this opportunity to remind, the rule was reclarified in a 5-year process that ended back in 2008, and now the current administration wants to reopen that rule and redo it completely in just a matter of months, with no science, no data to support it and no justification. And I would remind my colleague that the only reason, the number one reason for passing this amendment is for the up to 29,000 jobs that it is potentially going to save.
The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Chairman, I'm from California so forgive me, but I also was the Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior in the mid-nineties, and we set up a program [Page: H1280]
called the Appalachia Clean Streams Program to deal precisely with the issues that have risen over the years from the pollution and contamination from the various coal mines, including mountaintop removal. This effort underway by the Department is to deal with the ongoing problem.
The continuing problem, mountaintop removal in mining, does contaminate and does destroy streams.
I could not believe the clarity of the water in the streams when I visited West Virginia. They would make the swimming pools in Los Angeles envious. Nothing was alive, nothing at all, because of the contamination from the mines. I just ask for the opportunity to go ahead.