Environmental Disaster Coming: The Stream Buffer Zone Rule

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Congress and President Trump began unraveling environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration last week. At issue is the Stream Buffer Zone Rule that requires mining companies to create a buffer of at least 100 feet around streams and waters. Since many mining companies practice “mountaintop removal” where they simply remove the top of a mountain to get at the coal beneath, the debris and runoff inevitably fills stream-beds and destroys habitat for fish and other animals.

Trout Unlimited, in a post on their website, outlined the following reason to support the Stream Buffer Zone Rule: Over 2,000 miles of streams have already been destroyed or degraded by coal mining. Over the past ten years Trout Unlimited has only been able to restore 60 miles of damaged streams. Repealing the Stream Buffer Zone Rule means that Trout Unlimited will likely never be able to keep up with the destruction.

In repealing the Stream Buffer Zone Rule we understand that Senator McConnell seeks to do what’s best for his constituents – that’s his job. And he’s just beginning. In a press release from his office, McConnell promises that “more regulations will be repealed, but this was a crucial place to start.” He is doing his constituents a disservice, however, because the economic reality of coal is more complicated. Natural gas is currently much less expensive and as long as mining coal is more costly, more hazardous to miners, and more harmful to the environment there is little chance that the coal jobs will come back. Senator McConnell and President Trump would do well to be more honest with those whose livelihoods have depended on the coal industry.

Candidate Trump promised that he would make America great again by bringing back manufacturing jobs and reinvigorating the coal industry. These promises are essentially impossible to keep because the economic circumstances surrounding these industries preclude the possibility that they can come back.