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Fact Sheet: Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act

Fact Sheet: Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act

Preventing Implementation of a Disastrous New Stream Buffer Zone Rule


Background on the Expected New Stream Buffer Zone Rule

  • In April of this year the administration is expected to issue Stream Buffer Regulations aimed directly at shutting down surface coal mining operations.  The proposed regulations would essentially ban mining operations within 100 feet of anything the Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) defines as a “stream.” Even worse, the proposed new regulations are expected to prohibit mining underneath a stream, making underground coal mining very challenging.


What the STREAM Act Does

  • Require OSM to use existing funds to conduct a study of industry impact.  Prevent implementation of a new rule for one year after completion of that study to allow for congressional, industry, and public review.
  • Prevent OSM from seizing duplicative regulatory jurisdiction from other agencies; namely, the EPA which already has similar regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.  This is particularly significant because OSM was never intended by statute to be an environmental regulator.  It was instead designed to be an agency to monitor and assist in the reclamation of closed surface mines. 
  • Require OSM to publically release all scientific data used in the drafting of any new rule


The Impact of a New Stream Buffer Rule on West Virginia

  • Because of the mountainous topography of West Virginia and the abundance of small streams, the rule would have a disproportionate impact on the coal industry in the state.
  • 45 to 79 percent of the coal reserves in Appalachia would no longer be recoverable if the expected Stream Buffer Zone is implemented.
  • The Appalachian Region could lose as many as 220,000 coal-linked jobs
  • Over 90 percent of energy consumed in West Virginia is produced by coal power; distress in the coal industry will raise home energy prices and business energy costs, impacting all West Virginians
  • Approximately 60 percent of West Virginia state business tax is derived from coal revenues.  Any decrease in these revenues would put severe financial strain on the state budget.


The Impact of a New Stream Buffer Rule on the Nation

  • A 2012 Study conducted on behalf of the National Mining Association found that the job loss nationwide from anew Stream Buffer Zone rule would be between 133,441 and 273,227 jobs or 29 to 59 percent of coal mining and linked sector jobs.
  • The same study predicts that the new rule could put between 55,150 and 79,870 direct mining jobs at risk.
  • The anticipated overall decrease in recovery of demonstrated coal reserves is between 30.4 and 41.5 percent; both surface and underground mines will be significantly impacted.
  • The annual value of coal lost to production restrictions could be $14  to 20 billion.
  • The study also estimates that the total annual federal and state tax revenue potentially foregone because of lost production will be$4to 5 billion.



  1. ENVIRON International Corporation (2012, March 5).  Economic Analysis of Proposed Stream Protection Rule.  National Mining Association, 20-28301A.