Press Release Jan 30, 2017

Fact: Dismantling the Stream Protection Rule Endangers National Park Waterways

A resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule, which safeguards streams from pollution created by mountaintop removal and surface coal mining.

WASHINGTON – A resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule advances today, with House review. Members of Congress used the Congressional Review Act to take aim at the rule, finalized by the Department of the Interior in December 2016, which safeguards streams from pollution created by mountaintop removal and surface coal mining. The House will vote on the resolution on Wednesday, February 1.

The Stream Protection Rule was decades in the making and backed by a robust, multi-year public engagement process, which addressed more than 100,000 public comments.

Pollution created by mountaintop removal mining and surface coal mining has devastated thriving natural ecosystems and entire communities like those in Central Appalachia. The Stream Protection Rule modernized existing regulations, initiated by the Reagan Administration, to reflect new science and technology. The goal of the update was to improve baseline data collection, monitor and bond requirements and restore stream functions.

Below is a statement by Chad Lord, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Senior Director of Water Policy:

“Congress is taking a troubling step backwards, with its intent to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule. Killing this important rule fails to protect the small businesses and families that depend on clean water.

“Mountaintop removal mining in the region is a dirty, industrial activity that can destroy or gravely endanger rivers and streams by burying them under mountains of dirt. The Stream Protection Rule would prevent toxic pollution produced by mining operations from harming waterways. These are the same waterways that people hike by or paddle on in national parks including Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Bluestone National Scenic River and New River Gorge National River. Will Americans continue to want to visit these national park sites and spend millions of dollars in surrounding communities each year, if polluted waterways greet them upon arrival?

“Rather than blocking these important policies, Congress should work to ensure our national parks and surrounding communities have the clean waters they deserve. National Parks Conservation Association urges all who care about clean drinking water to contact their member of Congress and urge them to vote ‘no’ on this misguided resolution.”

Background:

In 1983, the Reagan Administration put rules in place aimed at preventing mining waste from being dumped into streams except in very limited instances. The 1983 rule allowed mining activities in the buffer zone of streams only upon a finding by the proper authority that the mining activities “will not cause or contribute to the violation of applicable State or Federal water quality standards, and will not adversely affect the water quantity and quality or other environmental resources of the stream.” After nearly 25 years in place, the Bush Administration made changes to the Reagan rules removing the two criteria related to water quality, weakening a protective standard that was in place for decades.

The Stream Protection Rule updates the most recent rules to ensure public health, rivers and streams, national parks, and local communities are protected from the hazardous impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.