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Stream Protection Rule Under Attack

The Stream Protection Rule is being debated in Washington. Credit: pharmshot/iStock
The Stream Protection Rule is being debated in Washington. Credit: pharmshot/iStock
November 4, 2015

WASHINGTON - The proposed federal Stream Protection Rule is under attack in Washington D.C. It has already been the subject of several congressional hearings and will be heard before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee soon.

Mining interests say the rule would do more harm than good and will cost 200,000 jobs, but the Obama administration says it will cost only a few hundred jobs - and will protect the nation's streams from devastating pollution.

Ellen Pfister, who raises cattle near Signal Peak Energy's coal mine outside Billings, said she supports the rule because her water supplies are threatened.

"Right now, it's undermining the north end of my place," she said. "And we're in an area that is quite water short. If you have your springs damaged above the mining, then the chances are your next available water is several hundred feet underground."

The Stream Protection Rule would force mining companies to more closely monitor the streams before projects commence.

Pfister said water already has been damaged in the nearby Powder River Basin.

"All of those big mines in the Powder River have got underground mine damage to the water," she said, "and nobody really knows for sure when that underground water will recover."

The rule has not yet taken effect. The public comment period has just ended, and 94,000 comments poured in. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement will review them and decide if the rule needs to be changed.

Bills before both the House and Senate would stop the rule in its tracks and force federal officials to go back to the drawing board.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT