President dismantles stream protections, threatening drinking water for Southeasterners, nation

Today President Donald Trump undid protections for streams running through the nation’s coal country and the drinking water they provide. (© Robert Llewellyn)

Today President Donald Trump signed into law a repeal of the Stream Protection Rule, dismantling key protections that help keep our drinking water safe from coal pollution. The President’s signature on this bill marks the first anti-environmental rollback of many promised from this new administration.

“In their first move to dismantle basic protections of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we depend on, anti-environment leaders in Congress and the Administration chose to put coal-mining profits over the health and safety of Appalachian communities,” said SELC Senior Attorney Deborah Murray. “Limiting the toxic waste coal companies can dump in our rivers and streams is not a burdensome government regulation; it is common sense and, quite frankly, the job of our federal government. We cannot continue to allow toxic mining pollution in our sources of drinking water.”

Often, mining companies have sent toxin-laden waste tumbling from mountaintops into valleys and streams, harming or destroying these crucial waterways. The Stream Protection Rule limited the amount of mining waste that could be deposited into streams and required mining companies to monitor the water for coal contaminants and report the findings to the public.

Finalized in December after years of input from a wide range of stakeholders, the rule provided clarity and peace of mind to those still living in coal communities and protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest for the next 20 years, according to the Department of the Interior.

Provisions in the rule included requiring companies to avoid mining practices that would permanently pollute streams or drinking water sources and restoring streams and mined areas to pre-mining uses.

But now the protections have been stripped from these communities through use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule. The Congressional Review Act process prohibits any similar rules from taking shape in the future. That means these protections for important sources of drinking water in mining communities could go away—for good.

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