Clock runs out on another midnight regulation


We’ve been reporting for months on the Bush administration’s “midnight regulations,” the flurry of often controversial last-minute rules approved in November and December.

The president already announced plans to undo the “conscience rule,” one of most controversial regulations.

And today another rule met its end: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he’s seeking the end of the “mountaintop mining” rule that allowed coal companies to dump the “fill” — the leftover rocks from mining — in streams.

“We’re cleaning up a major misstep from the previous administration,” Salazar said today at a press conference. “This was bad public policy… it simply doesn’t pass muster.”

Technically, the rule isn’t gone yet. Interior asked the Justice Department to file a pleading in the U.S. District Court; the suit will claim that the regulation has serious legal deficiencies, Salazar said. The courts could then formally strike down the rule.

That verdict would mean coal companies will once again be governed under a 1983 rule, approved during the Reagan administration, which prohibits dumping within 100 feet of streams.

Salazar said the move was largely symbolic, because many states are still using the 1983 rule (coal mining is regulated at the state level). Only Tennessee decided to adopt last year’s regulation.


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