Coal rule first to be killed by U.S. Congress, others near chopping block

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By Lisa Lambert | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to
overturn a rule intended to cut water pollution from coal-mining
waste, the first of a number of Obama-era regulations
congressional Republicans are aiming to kill.

By a vote of 54-45, the Senate approved a resolution already
passed in the House of Representatives to ax the rule, which is
intended to keep water sources in areas of mountaintop removal
mining clear of waste. Congressional Republicans and the coal
industry considered the rule a job killer.

The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump, who is
expected to sign it quickly. It was only the second time the
Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to stop newly
minted regulations in their tracks, has been used since it was
passed in 2000.

The Senate was scheduled later on Thursday to debate killing
an equally controversial rule requiring extraction companies
such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron to disclose
taxes and other payments they make to governments.

That resolution is expected to also pass easily but
Democrats, who cannot filibuster it, still mounted a fight by
pressing Republican colleagues to vote to save the rule and
possibly forcing debate to go long into the night. The Senate
plans to vote on killing the rule on Friday.

Meanwhile, the House on Thursday also overturned rules
intended to root out pay discrimination at federal contractors
and to expand background checks for gun purchasers with a
history of mental illness who receive Social Security benefits.
The chamber then plans on Friday to overturn a regulation on
methane on public lands.

Republicans are using their control of both chambers of
Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade to
attack regulations they believe hurt the national economy. They
cast the stream protection rule as an assault on industry that
usurps state rights.

“The Obama Administration’s stream buffer rule was an attack
against coal miners and their families,” said the top Senate
Republican, Mitch McConnell, adding that it would have killed
jobs in his home state of Kentucky.

Environmental activists, and their allies in the Democratic
Party, said the rule would have made drinking water safer for
those living in coal-heavy areas by monitoring for pollutants
such as lead.

“Given that many of these toxins are known to cause birth
defects, developmental delays, and other health and
environmental impacts, this basic monitoring provision was
essential,” said Jeni Collins, associate legislative
representative for environmental group Earthjustice, adding the
rule was crafted over many years of scientific research

The coal industry hopes the repeal is the first step toward
Trump overturning an Obama moratorium on coal leases on federal
lands.

Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can vote to
undo new regulations with a simple majority, meaning Democrats
cannot try delaying tactics. Agencies cannot revisit overturned
regulations and the timing in the law means any regulation
enacted in the Obama administration’s final months is eligible
for repeal.



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