Supporting coal mining through elimination of federal rules that hamper growth may be the biggest environmental deregulatory strategy so far advanced by the Trump administration. The President signed his March 28, 2017, Executive Order (EO) (Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth) with a group of coal-company executives and miners behind him and told them they were going back to work. Among other things, the EO directs the EPA to review, rescind, or revise the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan, viewed by many as an indirect attempt to drastically reduce the role of coal in America’s energy profile.
Now Scott Pruitt, EPA’s new administrator, has followed up President Donald Trump’s performance with a visit to the Harvey Mine complex in Pennsylvania. Harvey Mine is one of the largest underground coal mines in the country and the home to an underground mining training academy.
“What better way to launch EPA’s Back-to-Basics agenda than visiting the hard-working coal miners who help power America,” said Pruitt. “The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hard working Americans. Back-to-Basics means returning EPA to its core mission: protecting the environment by engaging with state, local, and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.”
According to an EPA release, the Back-to-Basics agenda has the following components:
- Follow the president’s EO with four notices, signed by Pruitt, to review and, if appropriate, revise or rescind major, economically significant, and burdensome rules the last administration issued.
- Restore the states’ important role in regulating local waters by reviewing the Clean Water Rule (Waters of the United States (WOTUS)).
- Clear the backlog of new chemicals that were waiting approval from the EPA so they can go to market and companies can innovate and create jobs.
- Help states achieve high air quality targets, clean up toxic waste sites, and improve America’s water infrastructure.
- Rescind an “unjustified, premature evaluation of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model year 2022–2025 vehicles” and work with the Department of Transportation to conduct a collaborative and robust review of the standards.
- Review EPA’s Oil and Gas Methane New Source Performance Standards for new and modified sources to determine whether it is duplicative.
- Allocate funds for vital environmental projects that go directly to the health of citizens, such as providing $100 million to upgrade drinking water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan.
- Stop the methane Information Collection Request by telling businesses they no longer have this additional bureaucratic burden, with the cost to American businesses attempting to comply with exceeding $42 million.
- Launch the EPA Regulatory Reform Task Force to undertake extensive reviews of the misaligned regulatory actions.
Parent Paid $3 Million Fine
“[Pruitt’s] appearance should give confidence to coal communities across the country that the days when our government stands in opposition to them are over and that the appreciation they deserve for securing the nation’s energy supply for our manufacturing industries and families is finally at hand,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn in reference to Pruitt’s appearance at Harvey Mine.
Last year, the EPA fined CONSOL Energy Inc., which owns the Harvey Mine, for alleged Clean Water Act violations at the company’s Bailey Mine, which is also in Pennsylvania. The EPA asserted that pollutant discharges from the mine to tributaries of the Ohio River chronically exceeded limits in the mine’s permit. CONSOL agreed to pay a $3 million penalty and submit and implement a plan for achieving long-term compliance, among other measures.