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US House set to vote soon on Stream Protection Rule for coal producers

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote soon on a resolution to overturn the U.S. Department of the Interior's Stream Protection Rule affecting coal producers, one of several regulations that Republicans hope to rescind with Donald Trump in the White House.

Matt Sparks, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House will vote on the measure sometime during the week of Jan. 30 through Feb. 3.

Interior finalized the Stream Protection rule in December 2016, during the final days of the Obama administration. The regulation revised U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement regulations to define "material damage to the hydrologic balance" outside mining permit areas and require permits to identify which mining-related impacts on water reached that threshold. The rule also included new water quality monitoring and stream restoration requirements.

The coal industry panned the regulation, saying the rule is duplicative with certain Clean Water Act requirements, exceeds Interior's authority and would imperil a vast amount of production and mining jobs.

Because the rule was finalized recently, Republicans filed disapproval resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to strike down the regulation. The act allows Congress to overturn federal rules finalized within the last 60 legislative days with just a simple majority of votes in the U.S. House and Senate. Disapproval resolutions, if enacted, also prevent agencies from crafting substantially similar rules in the future. The GOP controls both the House and U.S. Senate and Trump has said he wants to toss regulations the energy sector views as burdensome, making it likely the rule will be reversed.

Reps. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., and Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., both filed resolutions to undo the Stream Protection Rule in early January.

A coalition of more than 70 environmental and community groups urged lawmakers not to undo the rule next week, describing it as the first major update to surface mining regulations in 30 years. Any legislation to undermine the rule "would be a direct attack on ensuring that every community has access to clean, safe water," the groups said in a Jan. 25 letter to House members. Signatories to the letter included Earthjustice, Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as several state and local conservation and environmental groups.