The US Interior Department has proposed new environmental regulations it says will prevent or minimize impacts to surface water and groundwater from coal mining.
The proposed rule would protect about 6,500 miles of streams nationwide over a period of 20 years, the department says.
The proposed Stream Protection Rule would revise three-decades-old regulations for coal mining, replacing the 1983 regulations. It would require coal companies to test and monitor the condition of streams that their mining might impact before, during and after their operations. This feature would provide baseline data to ensure that operators could detect and correct problems if or when they arise
“The proposed rule would also provide the mining industry with something it has asked for time and again – regulatory certainty,” said assistant secretary for land and minerals management Janice Schneider. “The rule would make it clear which requirements apply to which types of streams, and how to determine what types of streams are present. Because of this clarity, companies can better prepare and plan.”
The proposed rule would also require companies to restore streams and return mined-over areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replanting them with native trees and vegetation unless a conflicting land use is implemented.
The department says it analyzed economic impacts and it projects the proposed rule to have a minimal impact on the coal industry overall.
In other efforts to minimize pollution from coal, the EPA is preparing to finalize the Clean Power Plan, which is expected to result in reductions in CO2 emissions from the electric power sector by 30 percent nationwide below a 2005 baseline by 2030.