As the Obama administration packed its boxes and prepared to leave office, the former president took a parting shot at Appalachian coal communities, who have already been some of the areas most hurt by his coal policies. After eight years of anti-coal executive actions, the Obama administration added insult to injury with its Stream Protection Rule.
This regulation was a blatant attack on coal jobs and the communities they support. It would have impacted both surface and underground mining. It took authority away from states and contradicted federal law. That’s why one national newspaper called this rule “a power grab aimed at giving federal regulators more authority to make coal too expensive for anyone to mine or use.”
Even worse, one study estimated that the Stream Protection Rule would have put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk.
When miners lose their jobs, the economic effects extend far beyond one family. In coal country, teachers and first responders are losing their jobs because communities don’t have the tax revenue to pay their salaries. Small businesses can’t afford to operate when their customers can’t pay for their products and services. We have all seen the growth of drug abuse that devastates families in these areas and contributes further to the perpetual cycle of unemployment.
The status quo is unacceptable. We cannot allow the legacy of the Obama administration to continue damaging our communities.
Luckily, supporters of coal workers finally have a friend in the White House. The election of President Trump signaled the change coming to Washington. Throughout his campaign, Trump inspired the American people with a vision of fewer regulations and a fair, competitive marketplace. In a recent letter I sent to then President-elect Trump about the coal industry, I urged him to join with us against job-killing regulations, including the Stream Protection Rule.
Now, Congress and the new administration are working together to finally bring relief to communities hurting across the country.
Kentucky deserves better than a targeted rule to put miners out of work. Washington should support efficient and safe ways to mine and use coal — an American commodity which provides affordable and reliable power for our homes, businesses and communities. That’s what I have long supported, and I am thankful we finally have a president who agrees.
Last December, I vowed to fight back against the Stream Protection Rule. I kept my promise to coal families, and, with a Republican president, we won.
Legislation, identical to what I introduced in the Senate, has already made its way through Congress to stop this disastrous rule and bring relief to coal miners and their families. I am heartened to know so many of my colleagues recognized the problems facing coal country, and I am glad that they joined with me to address them.
Of all the Obama administration’s onerous regulations, I chose to address the Stream Protection Rule first because of the devastating impact it would have had on Kentucky families.
Both houses passed the McConnell resolution, and President Trump signed it into law. I am grateful for his help, and I look forward to working with him in the future to protect coal families and communities. More regulations will be repealed, but this was a crucial place to start.
We were proud to have many partners in this fight. The opposition to this rule was not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats recognized that this rule was destructive to miners, their families, and their communities.
That’s why the Kentucky Coal Association, the United Mine Workers of America and attorneys general from 14 states, including Kentucky, joined together to put an end to one of President Obama’s final attacks on coal.
Last November, voters sent Republican majorities to Congress and a Republican president to the White House. Now, we can begin to undo the damage of the Obama administration. Together, we can all work to bring real relief to coal country.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is Kentucky’s senior senator.