Rules To Protect Streams Rolled Back

The Transylvnia Times – by Parker Baker

The 115th Congress voted 228 to 194 last Tuesday to roll back protections on streams and rivers. The Stream Protection Rule extended protections to waterways near coal mining operations.

President Barack Obama had finalized a version of the rule that strengthened it in December 2016 that read that mining operations could not damage waterways and established a 100-foot buffer around streams to preserve the animals and plants around those operations.

While there are no coal mines in Transylvania County, and no active mines in North Carolina at all, Congressman Mark Meadows, who represents the local district, voted to roll back the rule.

Meadows thanked Duke Energy in a 2015 press release for its investment of $1.1 billion to retire the Asheville coal plant and build a natural gas and solar installation in its place and praised Duke Energy, saying the move “was a win for both customers and the environment,” and that coal power is too expensive to operate.

According to a 2008 N.C. Geological Survey, 110 million tons of coal deposits have been identified in the eastern part of the state.

The Stream Protections Rule would have protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests in the Appalachian Mountains over the next 21 years. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, surface mining has replaced workers with heavy machinery and underground, high tech advances in machinery can now do the job that was took hundreds of men.

The rule would also have required mining companies to restore streams and mining operations to their natural state, replanting these areas with native trees and other vegetation. Continued monitoring and testing of the streams in these areas would also be enforced.

The Times sent several questions to Meadows’ office regarding the bill, but a week later there has been no response.

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