Yesterday we got news that the State of North Dakota is suing the administration of lame duck President Barack Obama over the new Stream Protection Rule from the Department of the Interior.
Today Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann joined me on air to discuss the rule and the lawsuit.
He told me North Dakota developed a program to regulate surface mining for coal before the federal government ever got around to it, and that while today the state program is operated in conjunction with the federal government, there have been no complaints or problems.
“In the nearly four decades that it’s been in existence they [the federal government] have never criticized,” Christmann told me. “There have literally been zero problems.
The state program was most recently reviewed by the federal government last June. There were no findings or other issues.
Christmann said the feds are ostensibly motivated by problems with coal mining in the Appalachian region polluting rivers, but that it makes no sense to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to the entire country that’s intended to address a problem with mining in one specific region. Especially given that mining in the mountains of West Virginia is a much different thing than surface mining on the plains of North Dakota.
“It’s hard to attribute this to laziness,” Christmann told me pointing out that the rule is the result of a five year process under President Obama. Rather he attributed it to “the fact that the president declared his war on coal.”
Christmann says he believes North Dakota is the first state to file suit against this rule, and that while other states may follow, North Dakota may end up pursuing its legal challenge alone. “For the same reason the rule doesn’t work,” Christmann told me, pointing to the differences in mining practices in different parts of the country, “our arguments would be different.”
I asked Christmann if he felt this would be something President-elect Trump could walk about once taking office. “I’m not a lawyer,” he said, but said it was his understanding that any new changes to the rule would have to follow the same arduous and time-consuming path its creation did.
He did say there is a chance Congress could set aside the rule using the Congressional Review Act, pointing out that the legislative branch has 60 days to do so.
If Congress acts “it would save everyone a lot of time and money,” Christmann told me.
Here’s the full audio: