For over two years, the Committee has conducted an investigation into the Obama Administration’s rewrite of coal regulations. The Administration has failed to fully comply with repeated requests for documents from the Committee looking into why this rewrite was initiated, whether the rewrite of the rule is being properly managed, whether political implications of the new regulations are unduly influencing the process, and the economic impacts of the new regulations. The Administration’s sweeping new rewrites could cost thousands of American jobs and decrease American energy production.

Committee Report: President Obama’s Covert And Unorthodox Efforts to Impose New Regulation on Coal Mining and Destroy American Jobs. (Released 9/20/2012)

Background:

Almost immediately after taking office, the Obama Administration began rewriting a recently completed coal regulation, the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule (Rule). This unnecessary action, carried out through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) at the Department of the Interior, proposed to dramatically alter a regulation that that took over five years of environmental analysis and careful scientific consideration to complete.

Despite the fact that a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was conducted for the 2008 Rule, OSM hired another contractor to write an entirely new EIS for the Obama Administration’s efforts to rewrite the Rule. An Associated Press story revealed that this draft EIS concluded that the Obama Administration’s regulation could cost over 7,000 mining jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states. Shortly after this information was made public, the Obama Administration criticized and dismissed the contractor it had selected to conduct this analysis.

In February 2011, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings and Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Doug Lamborn began an oversight investigation into the Obama Administration’s new coal regulations. The Committee is looking into serious questions regarding why this rewrite was initiated, how the rulemaking process itself is being managed, the Administration’s dismissal of the contractor, whether the political implications of the Rule are unduly influencing the process, and the impacts the proposed Rule will have on jobs, the economy, and coal production.

Key Documents and Recordings:

Internal documents and audio recordings obtained by the Committee through outside sources raise further questions into the highly unusual manner in which the Obama Administration is rewriting a coal production regulation.

Draft Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA)
Before any new federal regulation is implemented, a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is required to examine the potential economic impacts of the rule.

A preliminary draft RIA from December 2010 on the Obama Administration’s proposed coal regulation shows that the Administration anticipated significant coal reduction as a result of implementing their rule. By February 2011 (after the Associated Press reported that the regulation would cost 7,000 mining jobs) several tables and charts were removed from the draft RIA that showed loss of coal production, increased costs and the resulting loss of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the February 2011 draft RIA anticipated that small mining companies employing less than 500 people, which according to the RIA comprise 94 percent of all coal companies, would be “economically impacted in a catastrophic way.”

Audio Recordings
There are digital audio recordings totaling approximately 30 hours of meetings between Interior Department personnel and hired contractors regarding the rewrite of the rule. The Department has ignored a subpoena seeking copies of the audio recordings and has only provided heavily redacted versions of a few, select transcripts. However, copies of the recordings and unofficial transcripts provided to the Committee raise numerous questions about the Administrations motives for the rewriting the rule.

For example, the audio clips feature:

  • An OSM official discussing how a benefit of the Obama Administration’s new proposed rule is no coal mining.

  • The proposed rule being characterized as “atomic” for small businesses, with Director Pizarchik’s intent being to make the company decide whether they are “willing to risk their ability to ever mine coal again, against the possibility that they won’t be able to restore the stream.”

  • An OSM official worrying about how to “sell” the proposed rule to the public because it will only save 15 miles of stream, while costing millions in taxpayer dollars and thousands of American jobs. It appears the proposed rule would only save 15 miles of stream because coal production would be moved to other regions outside of the Appalachia – meaning the rule would have minimal national environmental benefit but would succeed in causing extreme economic dislocation and devastation in communities all across Appalachia.

  • OSM officials telling contractors to “pretend” that the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule was implemented and applied across the country when it was not, and explaining that this is “not the real world, this is rulemaking” as justification for using analysis that does not actually consider “conditions on the ground.”

  • An OSM official admitting that the contractors “did exactly what I told them to do” when completing the draft environmental impact statement. This conflicts with OSM Director Pizarchik’s testimony to the Committee and others who have criticized the work performed by the contractors when completing the draft environmental impact statement.

Click here to listen to the audio clips, read unofficial transcripts and the drafts of the RIA, and access all the documents provided by the Interior Department to date.

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