CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration doesn't plan to publish a proposed "stream protection rule" -- its rewrite of a controversial strip-mining regulation -- until sometime next year.
Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, outlined his agency's timeline Tuesday in testimony to a House of Representatives subcommittee.
The OSM has the proposed rule listed among its "long-term actions," with the proposal not scheduled for publication in the Federal Register until August 2014.
"We remain committed to providing ample opportunity through the rule-making process for the Congress, public, industry, stakeholders and others to provide input on the proposed rule that will help us develop a balanced and responsible final rule," Pizarchik told the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.
Under a legal settlement with citizen groups, the OSM had agreed to rewrite its stream "buffer zone" regulation by Feb. 28, 2011, and publish a final version of the new rule by June 29, 2012.
The OSM missed those deadlines long ago, and its efforts on the rulemaking remain a target for House Republicans, who insist the agency's actions are part of a much broader Obama administration "war on coal."
When President Obama took office in January 2009, environmental groups already had sued the OSM over George W. Bush administration changes to the buffer zone rule, a regulation that critics of mountaintop removal argued outlawed large valley fill waste piles.
The Bush OSM eliminated the 100-foot buffer around streams, a requirement that had never been enforced, but also added language to reduce the size of valley fills that have buried hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams.