Hoeven Brings Interior Assistant Secretary to ND, Pushes for States-First Approach to Stream Buffer Rule

Interior Needs to Allow States More Flexibility to Account for Differences

BEULAH, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today hosted Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider for meetings with state and mining industry leaders to show her firsthand the impact of the agency’s proposed Stream Buffer rule and to push Interior to work with the states to find a rule that is workable in North Dakota and protects water quality, jobs and the economy. Hoeven also pressed Schneider to send Office of Surface Mining personnel to meet with the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) to fix the rule.

The senator also hosted Schneider on a tour of the Freedom Mine in Beulah so that she could see firsthand the state’s good stewardship of the land and water and the differences between North Dakota mining and reclamation operations and those elsewhere in the country.

“We are making the case to the secretary that a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating mining activities just doesn’t work for North Dakota and that she should work with states to allow flexibility based on local factors,” Hoeven said. “The rule will impact the energy industry across the nation, but it is based primarily on coal mining in the Appalachian region. Because of the many differences in mining techniques, land reclamation and geography throughout the country, the rule will result in unnecessary costs and job losses without any environmental benefits for states like North Dakota.”

Hoeven invited Schneider to the state in the course of an Energy Committee hearing on the proposed Stream Buffer Rule, which the Department of Interior issued last July. He said she needed to come to the state to hear local concerns and learn about our industrial and environmental practices, which she agreed to do.

Hoeven Efforts to Address the Stream Buffer Rule

• The 2016 Interior Appropriations bill directs the Office of Surface Mining to work with states to ensure that water quality is protected while not adversely impacting jobs and the economy.
• Separately, the senator is working on legislation that will prohibit any modification of the Stream Buffer Rule, which could result in the loss of thousands of jobs in 22 states. The rule was updated in 2008 after a five-year process that included thousands of comments, two proposed rules and extensive environmental analysis from five agencies. However, last year the Obama Administration abandoned the 2008 rule even though the administration has not provided any evidence or data to justify a change to the rule.
• The senator also cosponsored bipartisan legislation to require the Secretary of the Interior to make publically available all scientific products and data relied on used to draft the new Stream Buffer Zone rule, or face delay and eventual withdrawal of the rule. The bill also prohibits the Interior Secretary from issuing a rule or determinations that needlessly duplicate or overlap with current environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act, under the jurisdiction of other agencies and prevent duplicate regulations between federal agencies.