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Mining crackdown could take hit in GOP budget bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration's crackdown on mountaintop removal took a hit in the U.S. House, with passage early Saturday morning of a spending bill that blocks such initiatives.

Lawmakers also added to the budget measure a Republican measure to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from passing new regulations to govern the handling and disposal of toxic coal ash from power plants.

Four major coal-related amendments made it into the bill, which faces stronger opposition in the Senate and a potential veto by President Obama.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., sponsored two of the four amendments and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for all four.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall was one of only seven Democrats to vote for all the amendments.

"I like that this legislation has the Congress taking a firmer control of the regulatory reins at the executive agencies, especially the EPA," Rahall said in a prepared statement.

McKinley's two amendments would block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using any federal funds to exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto "dredge and fill" permits for burying streams and prohibit EPA from finalizing new rules to regulate power plant ash as a hazardous waste.

In a press release, McKinley noted that each amendment was approved by a margin of nearly 60 votes and each attracted nearly 20 Democratic votes.

"Republicans and Democrats alike can agree that the EPA has gone too far -- and that it's costing us jobs," McKinley said.

A third amendment would block EPA from using water quality guidance issued last year as part of its review of Clean Water Act permits state agencies are approving for surface mining operations.

The final amendment would block the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from using any money to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce new rules to protect streams from mining damage.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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