WASHINGTON — Colorado coal mining companies would have more flexibility to engage in the mountaintop mining process under legislation the House passed Wednesday.
With minor exceptions, coal mining companies are required to adhere to a 1983 federal law that bars them from strip mining within 100 feet of rivers and streams. They would be required to abide by the law under the House bill, but would need to compensate property owners if mining caused damage from falling boulders or sludge.
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said the legislation would “cripple the Obama administration’s war on coal” by forcing officials to abide by stream buffer zone rules approved by the Bush administration in 2008.
The Obama administration has spent $10 million to study the effect of carrying out most of the 2008 rule. Lamborn said the industry needs regulatory certainty not questionable and endless rewrites that are wasting taxpayer dollars.
“This critical piece of legislation would save taxpayers money and American jobs by a responsible path forward,” Lamborn said.
The House passed the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs Act on a vote of 224 to 197. Lamborn voted yes, along with Colorado Republican Reps. Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, and Mike Coffman. Voting no were Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, and Ed Perlmutter.
Opponents said the legislation would give coal mining companies a green light to pollute rivers and streams. In a statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council said the bill would “lock in place George W. Bush-era rule changes that opened up local streams to the pollution caused by the ravages of mountaintop mining.”
GovTrack.us, a website that tracks federal politics, said the bill has a 21 percent chance of being enacted into law. On March 5, the Obama administration issued a veto threat for the bill.
The administration reiterated that the Interior Department will issue an updated stream buffer rule, although it did not specify it would do so this year as a key federal official did last July.