By Martin Kidston
A final Stream Protection Rule issued Monday by the U.S. Department of the Interior won the praise of several Montana environmental groups and swift criticism from Sen. Steve Daines, who is asking President-elect Donald Trump to repeal the measure.
The new Stream Protection Rule aims to prevent water pollution by applying best available science and technology to surface mining. It represents the first national update to water protection from coal mining in 30 years.
Ellen Pfister, who ranches above the Signal Peak coal mine north of Billings, called the measure a step in the right direction.
“Water is the lifeblood of the West,” Pfister said in a statement released by the Northern Plains Resource Council. “Western coal mines have a history of degrading and depleting water. This rule is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Without water, agriculture cannot coexist with mining.”
According to Northern Plains and the Powder Basin Resource Council, the new rule requires mine operators and states to collect more baseline data on water resources to guide mine design and reclamation.
But Daines, R-Mont., said the new rule is just another “bad act” by the Obama Administration. Daines has sent Trump a letter urging him to halt the new Stream Protection Rule.
U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, has been nominated to head the Interior Department. The rule was issued Monday by the agency’s Office of Surface Mining.
“This final rule will be devastating for hardworking miners in Montana like the Crow tribal members working at the Absaloka Mine,” Daines said. “It will create more challenges to operations at our other federal coal operations which provide critical sources of tax revenue and good-paying jobs throughout our state.”
The rule began development under the George W. Bush administration.