Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1644, Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Actby Representative Keith J. Rothfus
Posted on 2016-01-12
ROTHFUS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Washington for
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this rule.
Tonight President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union, where I expect he will celebrate his supposed achievements over the last 7 years. Outside the beltway, and especially in western Pennsylvania, there is little to celebrate about the Obama Presidency. The war on coal has been a central feature of Washington's misguided efforts over the past several years, and it has caused the loss of over 40,000 jobs in the coal industry across the country and economic hardship in coal country.
Later today we will vote on the STREAM Act, which challenges OSM's so-called stream protection rule. I am a cosponsor of this legislation, and I look forward to its passage.
The stream protection rule is yet another block in the wall of regulation that President Obama has been building the last 7 years. It will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, and it will reduce coal reserves by 41 percent. That amounts to a $20 billion loss to the economy.
Just yesterday we learned of the bankruptcy of yet another coal company. The job losses, firm closures, and disruptions to our communities are real, and they cannot be ignored any longer. This is an attack on cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy, and it will result in more control from Washington of the economy and the American people.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my fellow Members to support the passage of this rule and the associated bills.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I again continue to be amazed that the gentleman from Washington defends this process. I don't know how anybody can defend this process, it is so flawed. The end result is, again, bringing bills to the floor that are going nowhere and that are sound bites. They are not serious legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record the Statement of Administration Policy on all three bills in which the White House says they will veto these bills.
Statement of Administration Policy h.r. 1644--stream act (Rep. Mooney, R-WV, and 34 cosponsors, Jan. 11, 2016) The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1644, which would delay for at least three years updated regulations, known as the Stream Protection Rule, to protect streams [[Page H302]] from the effects of destructive surface coal mining practices. Such a needless delay of these important safeguards would impact the communities and economies that depend on clean water and a healthy environment.
The current stream protection requirements governing surface mining activities are more than 30 years old and do not incorporate significant advances in scientific knowledge and mining and reclamation techniques. An arbitrary three year restriction to block the updated modern, science-based regulations would significantly impair the ability of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to accomplish the mission and responsibilities the Congress laid out in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, including preserving clean water, human health, and the environment.
H.R. 1644 would prevent the restoration of hundreds of streams, result in deterioration of water quality for thousands of stream miles, and create sustained regulatory uncertainty, as well as public health impacts for downstream communities. In addition, the bill would impose arbitrary requirements and unnecessary processes that would seriously impede OSMRE's ability to use the best available science to protect public health and the environment.
If the President were presented with H.R. 1644, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Statement of Administration Policy s.j. res. 22--disapproving epa/army rule on waters of the united states (Sen. Ernst, R-IA, and 49 cosponsors, Nov. 3, 2015) The Administration strongly opposes S.J. Res. 22, which would nullify a specified Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) final rule clarifying the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agencies' rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The final rule has been through an extensive public engagement process.
Clean water is vital for the success of the Nation's businesses, agriculture, energy development, and the health of our communities. More than one in three Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources. The protection of wetlands is also vital for hunting and fishing. When Congress passed the CWA in 1972 to restore the Nation's waters, it recognized that to have healthy communities downstream, we need to protect the smaller streams and wetlands upstream.
Clarifying the scope of the CWA helps to protect clean water, safeguard public health, and strengthen the economy. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 focused on specific jurisdictional determinations and rejected the analytical approach that the Army Corps of Engineers used for those determinations, but did not invalidate the underlying regulation. This has created ongoing questions and uncertainty about how the regulation is applied consistent with the Court's decisions. The final rule was developed to address this uncertainty and it should remain in place.
If enacted, S.J. Res. 22 would nullify years of work and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water. EPA and Army have sought the views of and listened carefully to the public throughout the extensive public engagement process for this rule.
Simply put, S.J. Res. 22 is not an act of good governance. It would sow confusion and invite conflict at a time when our communities and businesses need clarity and certainty around clean water regulation.
If the President were presented with S.J. Res. 22, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
Statement of Administration Policy H.R. 3662--iran terror finance transparency act (Rep. Russell, R-OK, and 62 cosponsors, Jan. 11, 2016) The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3662, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, which would prevent the United States from implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by tying the Administration's ability to fulfill U.S. commitments under the deal to unrelated, non- nuclear issues.
H.R. 3662 includes provisions that connect the United States' JCPOA commitment to provide sanctions relief by delisting certain Iran-related individuals and entities, including banks, to non-nuclear issues outside of the scope of the JCPOA. In addition, certain provisions would effectively preclude delisting of individuals or entities on Implementation Day of the JCPOA--the day on which the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran has completed key nuclear-related steps that significantly dismantle and constrain its nuclear program--based on activity that may have taken place and ended long before Implementation Day and involving persons or activity that will no longer be sanctioned post-Implementation Day. By preventing the United States from fulfilling its JCPOA commitments, H.R. 3662 could result in the collapse of a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement that peacefully and verifiably prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Such a collapse would remove the unprecedented constraints on Iran's nuclear program that we achieved in the JCPOA, lead to the unraveling of the international sanctions regime against Iran, and deal a devastating blow to America's credibility as a leader of international diplomacy. This would have ripple effects, jeopardizing the hard work of sustaining a unified coalition to combat Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, calling into question the effectiveness of our sanctions regime and our ability to lead the world on nuclear non-proliferation.
The Administration has consistently made clear that the purpose of the nuclear negotiations, and ultimately the JCPOA, was to address one issue only--the international community's concerns over Iran's nuclear program and to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The JCPOA is the mechanism through which the United States was able to garner international support for our sanctions and achieve a diplomatic resolution.
As we address our concerns with Iran's nuclear program through implementation of the JCPOA, the Administration remains clear-eyed and shares the deep concerns of the Congress and the American people about Iran's support for terrorism. Powerful sanctions targeting Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile activities, its human rights abuses, and its destabilizing activities in the region remain in effect. Anyone worldwide who transacts with or supports individuals or entities sanctioned in connection with Iran's support for terrorism or development of WMD and their means of delivery, including missiles--or who does the same with any Iranian individual or entity who remains on Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List--puts themselves at risk of being sanctioned.
The President has made it clear that he will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of the JCPOA. If the President were presented with H.R. 3662, he would veto the bill.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a statement from the Win Without War coalition, 11 million activists across the country in opposition to H.R. 3662.
A Statement From Drew Proctor, Advocacy Director of ``Win Without War'' The Win Without War coalition, on behalf of our 11 million activists, urges your office to stand strong against all attempts to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Congress.
In particular, we urge Representative McGovern to OPPOSE H.R. 3662, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act.
H.R. 3662, which would prohibit President Obama from delivering on sanctions relief, has the potential to damage the leadership and credibility of the United States at this critical moment just before the historic agreement is implemented. Furthermore, the timing of the House's vote-- between President Obama's State of the Union speech and the deal's implementation date later this month--appears to be a deliberately partisan act designed to undermine the President and weaken his legacy. At a time when much of the Middle East is engulfed in war, the US has rightfully seized this opportunity to solve one of our most pressing national security threats without dropping a single bomb. We must not let political interests trump our national security goals. Huge progress has been made since the Iran deal was announced last July. Just yesterday, Iran reportedly took steps to remove the core of its plutonium reactor and fill it with concrete.
Sincerely, Drew Proctor, Advocacy Director, Win Without War.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter from 65 environmental organizations representing millions of members in opposition to H.J. Res. 22.
January 12, 2016.
Representative: The undersigned organizations, and our millions of members and supporters, oppose the Dirty Water Resolution (S.J. Res. 22). The ``Resolution of Disapproval'' under the Congressional Review Act attacks the Clean Water Rule, the Obama administration's landmark initiative to restore safeguards against pollution and destruction for lakes, streams, wetlands and other water bodies.
The Clean Water Rule restores important safeguards that once existed for a variety of water bodies. Those safeguards were eroded after a pair of Supreme Court decisions and by policies the Bush administration adopted, which left many water bodies inadequately protected or lacking the pollution control requirements of the Clean Water Act. The rule restores prior protections for many critical wetlands, which curb flooding, filter pollution, and provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including endangered species and wildfowl and fish prized by hunters and anglers.
The Dirty Water Resolution is an extreme action that seeks to kill the Clean Water Rule using the Congressional Review Act, which goes far beyond stopping a disapproved administrative action. The Congressional Review Act says that an agency may not adopt ``a new rule that is substantially the same'' as the disapproved rule, and the breadth of that requirement is very unclear.
[[Page H303]] In the context of the Clean Water Rule, it could be read to prohibit EPA and the Army Corps from issuing any rule that establishes protections for waters that the Clean Water Rule covers, like lakes, streams, and wetlands. The Dirty Water Resolution radically undermines the agencies' ability to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act--despite urging from industry associations, conservation groups, members of Congress, state and local leaders, and Supreme Court justices for such a clarification.
By pursuing this anti-clean water resolution, pro-polluter members of the House of Representatives are seeking to kill a commonsense and modest rule containing scientifically-sound and legally-valid protections for the nation's waters, including critical drinlcing water supplies.
Restored clean water protections enjoy broad support. In polling for the American Sustainable Business Council, eighty percent of small business owners--including 91% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 78% of Republicans--said they supported the then-proposed Clean Water Rule. A strong majority, 71%, also said that clean water protections are necessary to ensure economic growth; only six percent said they were bad for growth. Similarly, a bipartisan research team polled hunters and anglers nationwide and discovered that 83% surveyed thought that the Environmental Protection Agency should apply the rules and standards of the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands. Support for this policy was strong across the political spectrum, with 77% of Republicans, 79% of Independents and 97% of Democrats in favor.
We ask that you oppose the Dirty Water Resolution (S.J. Res. 22) because it will undermine protections for our drinking water supplies, flood buffers, and fish and wildlife habitat. This attack on clean water is not only a waste of the House's time but also an excessive and dangerous act that jeopardizes clean water for generations to come.
Sincerely, Alliance for the Great Lakes, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Amigos Bravos, Arkansas Public Policy Panel, BlueGreen Alliance, Central Minnesota Chapter of Audubon, Clean Water Action, Conservation Minnesota, Earthjustice, Endangered Habitats League, Environment America, Environment California, Environment Colorado, Environment Connecticut, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia, Environment Illinois, Environment Iowa, Environment Maine, Environment Maryland, Environment Massachusetts.
Environment Michigan, Environment Minnesota, Environment Montana, Environment New Hampshire, Environment New Jersey, Environment New Mexico, Environment New York, Environment North Carolina, Environment Oregon, Environment Texas, Environment Virginia, Environment Washington, Freshwater Future, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Park, Friends of the Mississippi River, Great Lakes Committee--the Izaak Walton League, GreenLatinos, Greenpeace, Gulf Restoration Network, Hoosier Environmental Council, Iowa Environmental Council, Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Abounds, Ohio Wetlands Association, PennEnvironment, Prairie Rivers Network, Religious Coalition for the Great Lakes, River Network, Save the Dunes, Shaker Lakes Garden Club, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Surfrider Foundation, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Wisconsin Environment, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter from eight sportsmen and conservation organizations in strong opposition to S.J. Res. 22.
January 11, 2016.
Re Hunters and Anglers Strongly Oppose S.J. Res. 22 Invalidating the Final Clean Water Rule Dear Representative: The undersigned sportsmen and conservation organizations strongly oppose Senate Joint Resolution 22, which the House of Representatives may vote on this week and would invalidate the final Clean Water Rule. This important rule clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction in a manner that is both legally and scientifically sound.
This joint resolution is an extraordinary and radical action to overturn a fundamental, once-in-a-generation final rule that is critical to the effective implementation of the 1972 Clean Water Act, and that was adopted following an exhaustive public rulemaking process. The resolution would overturn a rule that finally resolves longstanding confusion and debate, promotes clarity and efficiency for regulatory programs promoting river health, and preserves longstanding protections for farmers, ranchers, and foresters.
By using the Congressional Review Act, this joint resolution not only wipes out the final Clean Water Rule but also prohibits any substantially similar rule in the future. It locks in the current state of jurisdictional confusion and offers no constructive path forward for regulatory clarity or clean water. America's hunters and anglers cannot afford to have Congress undermine effective Clean Water Act safeguards, leaving communities and valuable fish and wildlife habitat at risk indefinitely.
This joint resolution dismisses the voices of the millions of Americans, including businesses that depend on clean water, who support the new rule and are eager to reap its benefits. The agencies engaged in a very transparent and thorough multi-year rulemaking process that included over 400 stakeholder meetings and an extended public comment period that produced over one million comments. Nearly 900,000 members of the public commented in support of the Clean Water Rule. A recent poll found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new rule directs.
The Clean Water Rule clearly restores longstanding protections for millions of wetlands and headwater streams that contribute to the drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans, protect communities from flooding, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy. The sport fishing industry alone accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water. The Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America's outdoor industry.
Opponents claiming the rule goes too far and protects water too much have filed a barrage of nearly identical legal challenges in numerous district and appellate courts across the country. On October 9, 2015, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed the Clean Water Rule nationwide. The Clean Water Rule and those who oppose it will have their day in court.
Meanwhile, we want Congress to know that despite these legal challenges, conservationists across the nation are steadfast in our support for the Clean Water Rule. After nearly 15 years of Clean Water Act confusion, further delay is unacceptable to the millions of hunters and anglers eager to have their local waters fully protected again. We are confident that, when the dust settles in the courts, the Clean Water Rule will withstand challenges saying it protects our water too much.
The Clean Water Act has always been about restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. It is bedrock support for America's more than 40 million hunters and anglers and for the 117 million Americans whose drinking water depends on healthy headwater streams.
We thank all of the members of Congress who stand with America's sportsmen and women to block attempts to derail the rule, and ask you to reject S.J. Res. 22 and any other legislative action against the rule that may follow this year.
Sincerely, American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter from nine public interest, environmental, and labor organizations strongly opposing H.R. 1644.
January 11, 2016.
Dear Representative: On behalf of our millions of members and supporters we strongly urge you to oppose the stream pollution bill, H.R. 1644, a bill expected on the House floor the week of January 11, 2016. This bill would put costly and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles in the already overburdened regulatory process with the sole intent of ensuring that coal companies can continue to destroy streams with coal wastes.
The present rules protecting such streams date to 1983. After the Department of Interior took several years to develop the proposed Stream Protection Rule, this bill requires a new study, this time by the National Academy of Sciences, on the effectiveness of the current decades-old surface mining regulation. The bill carves out two years for the completion of that study and then bars DOI from updating the rule for an additional year after that. In the meantime, communities will continue to shoulder the burden of water pollution and mining abuses. The intent of these new delays is clear: let the mining companies continue unimpeded with sacrificing the streams and health of the communities that surround their mines.
Another section of the bill adds new procedural hurdles before DOI can act under the surface mining law. Today, the Secretary and the heads of all rulemaking agencies regularly make available all the information relied upon concurrently with the proposed or final rule. Doing so enables stakeholders to weigh in during the public comment period on the basis for the proposal. This bill requires DOI to publish all scientific data used in a proposed rule 90 days before publication. It is unclear what the intent of this redundant provision is other than to congest the regulatory system with even more process and delay. If the Agency fails to meet this new paperwork burden, the goal of the authors is met--the protections must be delayed even further.
Unfortunately, these types of delay tactics are becoming increasingly common across [[Page H304]] the regulatory spectrum as polluters attempt to dodge their responsibilities. Thus, H.R. 1644 continues a dangerous trend of undermining public health and environmental protections under the guise of transparency. We urge you to vote against this legislation, both to protect mining communities and to our reject attempts to delay and frustrate improved regulatory protections.
Sincerely, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Effective Government, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Economic Policy Institute, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, United Auto Workers, United States Public Interest Research Group.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record a letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists in strong opposition to H.R. 1644.
Union of Concerned Scientists, September 9, 2015.
Dear Representative: The Union of Concerned Scientists, with 450,000 members and supporters throughout the country, strongly opposes The Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 1644, the STREAM ACT. H.R. 1644, as amended, would require the public disclosure of any and all information used to promulgate rules, and even policy guidance, relating to the Surface Mining and Control Act.
As we highlighted in Science, this proposal is just another example of what's becoming an old and tired song: an attempt to cloak an effort to block common-sense regulation in the guise of transparency. Furthermore, as we noted in a letter sent to the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year opposing H.R. 1030, the Secret Science Reform Act, this type of proposal represents a solution in search of a problem and greatly impedes the agency's responsibility to protect public health and the environment.
The amended version improves the original bill by exempting certain types of data from public disclosure. However, the language is so vague, it will make it very difficult for scientists doing federally-funded research to know whether or not the data they have spent years collecting may be prematurely disclosed before they can publish their own studies. At the very least, this discourages scientists from doing any crucial research that may be required to be publicly disclosed.
Worse, by linking agency rulemaking to public disclosure, this bill risks the timely implementation of regulations and guidance documents that protect the public health and safety and our environment. Agency rules will be delayed if any piece of underlying data used to inform rules or guidance documents is not publicly disclosed 90 days before the proposed rule or guidance is published. This is flawed because the data is not owned by the Department of Interior and the release of the data is under the researcher's control. For each day the data is delayed, the comment period is extended by a day. If the delay lasts longer than six months, the rule must be withdrawn.
These restrictions apply even to emergency rules, unless a delay ``will pose an imminent and severe threat to human life.'' Notably missing here however is the environment. For example, if a stream is polluted at a level that doesn't pose an immediate risk but may pose a long-term risk, under this proposal, the environmental pollution could not be stopped until it might be too late.
This proposal offers special interests a new way to game the system, by challenging the comprehensiveness of any data that the Department of Interior submits to fulfill the bill's requirements. Who decides when the data includes ``all the data?'' How much data, for example, must be released to justify an economic assessment, or an environmental analysis or a guidance document? Unanswered, too, is the question whether a regulation or guidance document based on exempt information is considered valid for purposes of this bill. Could the use of exempt information itself be grounds for a challenge? This bill would also expend taxpayer dollars by requiring the Department of Interior to spend $2 million on a study to evaluate the ``effectiveness'' of 1983 regulation to protect perennial and intermittent streams through the use of stream buffer zones. But the goal of the study is not to actually help the Department of Interior become a better custodian of our environment.
The real goal is to impose a sweeping moratorium on all regulations related to stream buffer zones for the time it takes the National Academy of Sciences to complete the ``comprehensive study'' plus another year for review. Since the bill anticipates funding for the NAS in both 2016 and 2017, Interior regulations would be blocked for at least three years. If the study is never funded though, the rules would be indefinitely delayed.
We recommend that you oppose Representative Mooney's amendment to H.R. 1644, as well as the underlying bill. The proposal would inhibit the Department of Interior's ability to carry out its science and evidence-based responsibility to protect human health and the environment. We strongly urge you not to report this proposal out of committee.
Sincerely, Andrew A. Rosenberg, Ph.D., Director, Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.