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Can't you just see the profits?


Now that they have a president who can be relied on to sign any insane crap they send him, Congress has gotten to the important business of overturning regulations that have been holding back the mighty power of American capitalism to make everyone rich. Or at least getting rid of some anti-pollution rules that were inconvenient to coal mining companies, so hooray, no more bothersome Stream Protection Rule! Using a delightful little 1996 turd of a law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to effectively veto recently enacted federal rules, the Senate voted Thursday to kill off the Stream Protection Rule, which prevented mining operations from dumping debris from mining -- especially mountaintop removal mining -- into waterways, and required companies to clean up streams they had already polluted. The House had already passed its version, so now the repeal of the rule goes to President Coalhumper, who's expected to sign it. Then all the mining jobs will come back, or at least the coal industry can continue blowing the tops off mountains and dumping the debris without regard to what it does to the water in the area. And here's the best thing about the Congressional Review Act: It forbids future administrations from ever putting in place a similar rule, forever. That's some catch, huh?

Mining companies cried and cried that burdensome regulations like the Stream Protection Rule have cost thousands of mining jobs, which is a tad unlikely, since the CRA only allows Congress to axe rules that have been adopted within the last 60 working days, and the Stream Protection Rule -- which updated and strengthened a rule that had been around for decades -- was finalized only in December. What's really killed jobs in coal, of course, has been the coal companies themselves, through adoption of mining methods like mountaintop removal, which is far less labor-intensive and allows for greater automation, meaning fewer jobs in the first place. Environmental regulations don't so much kill jobs as they reduce obscene profits a bit, since mining operations have to protect the stupid old environment, which is disposable anyway.

Mountaintop removal is a pretty literal term, no?

So what was this terrible job-killing regulation? We'll let those tree-hugging greenies at Forbes explain:

When the Department of Interior issued the rule, it said that its intent had been to protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of American forest by creating a larger buffer zone between mines and waterways. The goal, it had maintained, is to protect drinking water in accordance with today’s technologies. And while the rule may have been formally adopted at the last minute, they noted, the work to reform the 33 year old measure had been ongoing for many years.

The law would also require companies to restore streams and to return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and to also replant these areas with native trees and vegetation, the Interior Department had said. Companies would furthermore have to test and monitor the conditions of streams that might be affected by the mining activity.

Gosh, that certainly does sound like it was aimed at bringing about a jobless hellish socialist dystopia, just like the Obama administration had in mind. Oh, and also some clean water and forests, which are of no use to anyone.

So now all the coal mining jobs come back, right? Not so much. Coal will remain an increasingly mechanized industry, and that darn old free market means that electricity generation by cheaper natural gas (not to mention wind and solar, which are becoming increasingly competitive) will continue to reduce demand for coal. So undoing the Stream Protection Rule won't accomplish anything except to make water in coal country dirtier, coal companies' profit margins larger, and Republicans hungry to overturn more environmental regulations, since obviously just getting rid of one regulation wasn't enough to bring back all the jobs.

Get ready for more fun with the CRA, too! Congress is getting ready to use it to get rid of more job-killing, liberty-infringing regulations, like limits on methane waste from oil and gas production, a requirement that oil, gas, and mining companies disclose payments they make to do business in foreign countries (some call that "bribery"), parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, and a rule aimed at keeping mentally incompetent people from buying guns. Don't you feel freer already?

[Bloomberg / Vox / Forbes / images from EarthJustice.org]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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