It is believed that Obama administration officials may have compelled government contractors to fudge figures of job loss estimates relating to coal regulation. Audio recordings disclose unnamed Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) officials asking contractors to alter their job loss calculations. The figures that were allegedly modified are associated with the Stream Protection Rule.
It is estimated that as many as 7,000 coalminers could lose their jobs under the administration’s “preferred” regulation, according to a preliminary draft. A leaked copy of this report went public, following which officials asked contractors to match up estimates to a model in which another regulation was enforced–instead of using the real world numbers.
According to the Washington Free Beacon: “The House Natural Resources Committee obtained the tapes from an unidentified third party after OSM provided heavily redacted transcripts—the exchange above, for example, was blacked out—and withheld the audio recordings.”
The administration has been castigated by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) for its refusal to cooperate with the investigation. “The tapes validated many of our concerns that the administration went into this with an intent of devastating the coal industry, fully knowing that the provisions in the proposed rule would put 7,000 jobs at risk,” Johnson said. “And they wanted to get away with it by playing pretend.”
Washington Free Beacon reports:
“Contractors and officials acknowledged in the closed-door meetings that rewriting the rule would be “atomic” for small businesses and start-up coal operations and worried aloud that spending $200 million per year to protect only 15 miles of stream in high unemployment regions such as Appalachia would be a hard “sell.”
Since 1983, mining companies have conducted operations while maintaining a 100-foot barrier between their activities and streams.
The rule, known originally as the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, was never codified and has been loosely enforced. George W. Bush signed an official Stream Buffer Zone rule in 2008 that maintained the 100-foot restriction, but also included more exemptions for mining companies to conduct operations within the barrier.”
After Obama became president, he instructed OSM to rewrite the rule in order to pander to his environmentalist base. The committee released the tapes last week and OSM officials have been given the deadline of May 24 to reply to a second subpoena from the committee. “We’re going to keep marching down this path,” Department of the Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher said. “We’re not going to stop until we get a full accounting of why the administration has chosen to rewrite this rule and why they are going about it in a speedy, haphazard way.”
So far, the OSM has been fully cooperative with the committee, Fletcher said. The OSM has provided the committee with over 13,000 pages of documents which detail the history of the rule.