GOP Prepares to Cancel Key Environmental Rules - Will Dems Be United in Opposition?

Washington, D.C. – Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Monday sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to the entire House Democratic Caucus urging a united front against House Republican leaders’ plan to eliminate two environmental standards—the Stream Protection Rule and the Methane Waste Prevention Rule (MWPR)—using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

Republicans are expected to use the CRA early in the 115th Congress to attempt to cancel federal agency rules instituted under the Obama administration, often for no apparent reason other than to deregulate industry and spite the outgoing president.

In a separate letter Grijalva requested that Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) call a hearing on the effectiveness of both rules before Republicans vote to repeal them.

The Stream Protection Rule, which regulates the disposal of waste from mountaintop removal mining, a practice known to be severely destructive to public health and the environment, was the subject of more than four years of Republican congressional investigations that included multiple subpoenas and turned up absolutely nothing. (A history of Republicans’ years-long campaign to stop the rule from going into effect is available at After the proposed rule was published in July 2015, Republican interest waned and no hearings have been held on the rule since.

During the last Congress, the Washington Post highlighted Rep. John Fleming’s (R-La.) angry and scientifically inaccurate shouting match with a public health expert during a hearing on mountaintop removal mining’s community impacts in Appalachia. The Post called Fleming’s preference for name-calling, inventing “facts” and leveling false accusations of bias “not a good way to assess the validity of scientific information.”

Republicans’ decision to eliminate the Stream Protection Rule, which is overseen by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, without having held any hearings on its effectiveness suggests their motives are less than genuine, Grijalva said. 

“If the American people believe mountaintop removal mining needs fewer health and safety regulations, they left me off the memo,” Grijalva said today. “This is an especially egregious gift to the mining industry, and the committee majority knows full well that any public debate will only embarrass them. Democrats need to stand together to make sure they don’t get away with it.”

Repealing the Methane Waste Prevention Rule is a similar gift to the oil and gas industry. As Grijalva’s letter to colleagues explains:

[T]he Methane Waste Rule seeks to modernize and improve outdated 35-year-old standards on venting and flaring and comes after a years-long public process of input and comment, yet there have been no hearings on that rule since it was finalized in November. Rather than an open discussion on the merits of these rules, the House Majority has simply parroted industry talking points and scare tactics. [. . .] The MWPR would result in the savings and productive use of up to 41 billion cubic feet annually–an amount of gas that could supply roughly 740,000 households each year. This level of waste is unconscionable, and companies should be required to make the investments necessary to capture that natural gas and pay the American people their fair share. By stopping the Methane Waste Prevention Rule, the House Majority would be allowing the oil and gas industry to get off the hook at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Grijalva’s letter urges his colleagues “to side with the American people instead of corporate profits, hometowns over hedge funds, and every man, woman, and child over ExxonMobil” and oppose Republican efforts to cancel the rules.

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