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Rep. Doug Lamborn Pressing To Lift Coal Mining Restrictions Near Streams

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COLORADO COAL MINING
UNITED STATES - JULY 30: Coal is extracted at a Mountain Coal Company colliery in the mountains near Paonia, Colorado, U.S., on Thursday, July 30, 2009. The U.S., which holds the world's largest reserves of coal, relies on the fuel for about half of its power generation, compared with about 20 percent for natural gas. (Photo by Chip Chipman/Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Getty

From The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic.

Colorado U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is pressing to lift restrictions that keep coal mining companies from conducting operations within 100 feet of streams.

The Colorado Springs Republican has sponsored legislation with Ohio Republican Bill Johnson. Their bill is about two kinds of waste. It seeks to prevent “waste of taxpayer resources” by thinning regulations meant to prevent “mining waste” from running into mountain water sources.

HR 2824, the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” would revive a rule made during the Bush administration designed to thin regulations but stalled by lawsuits and by a Ken Salazar-headed Interior Department sympathetic to environmentalist concerns.

Lamborn heads the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, which is debating his bill today. He is a staunch advocate on Capitol Hill for the fossil fuel industry. He opposes policies aimed at battling climate change and has consistently advocated against international agreements intended to reduce carbon emissions. The mining industry is one of his top campaign contributors, the Sunlight Foundation reports.

Increasing amounts of U.S. coal is mined in the west, nearly 40 percent by some estimates coming from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, where companies employee something like 15,000 workers.

But Americans lean increasingly on cleaner sources of energy than coal, particularly natural gas, which modified power plants can use to replace coal. Now much of U.S. coal is being shipped overseas.

But coal still accounts for nearly 30 percent of the carbon emissions released in the United States. And getting it out of the ground continues to transform enormous swaths of land, eliminating whole mountains and burying streams. Runoff carries mineral acids, heavy metals and sediment to rivers and watersheds far from the mines.

A Sunlight Foundation blog post offers a concise version of the long history leading to the Lamborn bill — “another episode in a highly partisan saga,” writes Sunlight’s Nancy Watzman. She quotes National Mining Association president Hal Quinn.

“This bill accomplishes the important task sometimes lacking in public policy: it balances the needs of the economy with the needs of the environment.”

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