Front Porch Blog

Former Coal Regulator Shows How Little He Knows About Coal Regulation

A proud former coal regulator should know that miles of Appalachian streams have been buried in mountaintop removal waste. But North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer claims dumping mining waste into streams is illegal.

One might assume that the House Natural Resources committee would be tired of holding hearings on the Stream Buffer Zone Rule after the fifth or sixth time, especially since the rule has yet to be introduced. But one would be mistaken. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the GOP-led committee is sure they are on to something.

Last Thursday’s hearing provided an opportunity for the committee members to question Robert Knox of the Office of the Inspector General on its recent report concerning the Office of Surface Mining and their rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone.

The Inspector General’s office basically found that there was nothing to find. OSM is rewriting the rule and politics have not influenced job estimates. As could be expected, the thorough and public report released before the hearing provided the same information that Knox provided at the hearing, and, as could be expected, the Republicans on the committee are still not satisfied. They want a scandal, and by jove, they’ll get one, evidence be damned.

The hearing did provide one enlightening moment: North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He was, as he put it, a “coal regulator” in North Dakota for ten years. Yet he believes, and smugly pointed out to his colleagues on the committee, that current stream protections are sufficient and dumping mining waste into streams is illegal.

To be clear, more than 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried or poisoned by the valley fills associated with mountaintop removal mining. The 2008 rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone and the Bush fill rule of 2002, both allowed for increased dumping of mining waste into intermittent and ephemeral streams.

It’s not fair to expect each member of congress to be an expert on every issue, but a former coal regulator should know this stuff. Watch Cramer attempt to make the case that his colleagues and the millions of Americans concerned about mining wastes impacts on streams are worked up over nothing.

About Thom Kay

AV's Senior Legislative Representative, Thom spends his days between Durham, NC and Washington D.C., knee deep in politics and legislation, working to persuade decision-makers to protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal and to invest in a new economy for the region. He is the least outdoorsy person at Appalachian Voices, and he's just fine with that.