Tracking the Environmental Policies of the Trump Administration >>
Trump, Allies in Congress Promise Dirty Water for Mining States
A new rule by the Obama administration will require coal mining corporations to take additional steps to protect drinking water sources and nearby forests from being polluted and damaged during mountain top removal and other operations.
The Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule updates a regulation put in place more than three decades ago, and would require coal corporations “to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk, and threaten forests.” It also mandates that companies “restore streams and return mined areas” to the conditions they were in before volatile and environmentally damaging coal extraction practices, like mountain top removal, began.
It seems like a common-sense proposal. If you make a mess, you clean it up.
But President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to block President Obama’s rules designed to reduce the environmental and public health threats that coal mining levies on communities, falsely claiming these regulations are responsible for the dramatic downturn in U.S. coal production. Meanwhile, virtually all energy analysts agree that the decline in coal productions and consumption primarily stems from the recent explosion of much cheaper natural gas production and the surge in renewable energy sources.
For the coal industry, the new rule would increase pollution testing, and the monitoring of streams and other waterways adjacent to the extraction operations that often provide tap water for area residents.
Officials with the Interior Department estimate that over the next 20 years, these new requirements would protect more than 6,000 miles of waterways and 52,000 acres of forests.
Mr. Trump has often repeated a pledge to bring back all coal jobs. Not only will that campaign promise be very difficult, if not impossible, to keep, but if Trump and some in Congress make good on their threat to roll back rules on coal mining, families in West Virginia, Wyoming, North Dakota, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and throughout Appalachia will have even dirtier water than they do now.
Trump has said providing “crystal clear drinking water” to the American people is among his priorities. Unless, of course, you and your family live and work in a hard-scrabble mining town in Wyoming or West Virginia, where efforts to protect drinking water could very well be dismantled.