Final rule protects streams from mining impacts

Mining companies must restore streams and replant with native vegetation

Posted December 21, 2016

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a final rule to prevent or minimize impacts to surface and groundwater from coal mining. The rule is predicted to protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest over the next 20 years.

The Stream Protection Rule, developed by Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), includes revisions to 30-year-old regulations applying to the coal mining industry.

OSMRE says it is “closing loopholes” and improving the rule to better protect people who live near places where coal is mined. The final rule requires companies to avoid mining practices that pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk, and threaten forests. It also requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to their pre-mining capabilities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation.

OSMRE says the rule promotes operational accountability to achieve the environmental restoration required when mining operations were permitted. Further, the rule is projected to have a “negligible impact” on the coal industry overall.

The rule takes effect on January 19, 2017.

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