WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate to pass a resolution undoing the previous administration's update of the Stream Protection Rule. Earlier this week, Heitkamp joined a bipartisan group of 29 senators -including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell-in helping introduce the resolution.
The resolution has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, sending it to the president's desk to be signed into law.
'Today the U.S. Senate voted to undo a rule that made no sense for North Dakota's lignite coal industry-an industry that supports jobs and rural communities, and powers homes across our state,' said Heitkamp. 'The Stream Protection Rule was intended to curb runoff and other issues in Appalachia, but it failed to take into account North Dakota's unique geography and mining practices. North Dakota already leads the nation in reclamation, and this one-size-fits-all rule would have done real harm. Going forward, North Dakota needs federal policies that boost our diverse energy mix so we can continue to create jobs and generate affordable, reliable power.'
Proposed and finalized last year, the updated Stream Protection Rule was originally intended to address Appalachian mining practices, but the final rule was applicable to the entire country and showed little understanding of the mining practices of the lignite industry or the geography of North Dakota. For more than a year, Heitkamp has worked to fix or roll back the rule so North Dakota's lignite coal industry isn't held back by these unworkable federal policies.
In May 2016, Heitkamp toured Beulah's Freedom Mine with a top U.S. Department of the Interior official to make sure the agency understood how the Stream Protection Rule would negatively impact the state's coal mining industry, and to press the agency to fix its draft rule to guarantee coal has a viable path forward in the state. Janice Schneider, Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, came to the state to hear about concerns that lignite mining leaders and North Dakota officials have with the Office of Surface Mining's (OSM) draft rule. Schneider oversees OSM and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which Heitkamp criticized last January for its freeze on federal coal leasing.
Prior to Schneider's visit, Heitkamp urged Interior to remain actively engaged with North Dakota's coal industry in making fixes to its draft Stream Protection Rule.
Heitkamp has long worked to guarantee that coal remains a vital component of North Dakota's energy mix, most recently introducing a bill with broad bipartisan support to extend a key tax credit that incentivizes the development and use of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies and processes. Heitkamp brought EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to North Dakota in February 2014 so the Administrator could hear about the impacts of EPA regulations from North Dakotans. Heitkamp has also brought Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to North Dakota in August 2014 to push the U.S. Department of Energy for more investment in clean coal technology.