Your vote matters, and so does your Congressman’s. That’s why I have to question why someone who claims to be an advocate for our environment has been consistently voting against it hoping that no one will notice. You can see the roll call vote here.

If February of 2017, Bill Posey voted yes in support of H.J.Res.38 – Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule. This joint resolution nullifies the Stream Protection Rule finalized by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement on December 20, 2016. The rule addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites.

The purpose of this rule was to reduce the occurrence of an environmental hazard known as acid mine runoff, defined by the Environmental Protection Agency:

Acid mine drainage is the formation and movement of highly acidic water rich in heavy metals. This acidic water forms through the chemical reaction of surface water (rainwater, snowmelt, pond water) and shallow subsurface water with rocks that contain sulfur-bearing minerals, resulting in sulfuric acid. Heavy metals can be leached from rocks that come in contact with the acid, a process that may be substantially enhanced by bacterial action. The resulting fluids may be highly toxic and, when mixed with groundwater, surface water and soil, may have harmful effects on humans, animals and plants.

The previous administration Stream Protection Rule, written by the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation (OSMRE). Within it were new restrictions for mining permits in areas with potential for surface water contamination, as well as language clarifying a stricter definition of “stream buffer rules.” A lack of clarity regarding buffer zone regulations that were meant to curb acid mine runoff was discussed in a history of stream protection published on the OSMRE web site:

In 1983, OSMRE issued a rule that required a 100-foot “buffer zone” adjacent to streams. Environmental groups have alleged that the 1983 rule is an outright prohibition on the disposal of excess spoil that buries streambeds, which could severely limit coal mining operations in Appalachia. Historically, OSMRE and some Appalachian states did not interpret the 1983 rule in this manner.
In 2008, OSMRE finalized the Stream Buffer Zone Rule to clarify OSMRE’s interpretation of the 1983 rule. The 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule explicitly allows excess spoil to be placed in streams, though it also added new requirements designed to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of doing so.
Environmental groups challenged the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule in court … and in February 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule. The decision reinstated the 1983 version of the Stream Buffer Zone Rule.

Alex Kasprak

So essentially, passing of this new resolution has taken us back to 1983.  It does not in itself legalize anything — rather, it invalidates an update to the 1983 law, leaving plenty of wiggle room for interpretations friendlier to the mining industry and an enemy to our water supply. We need leaders who are ready to move us forward and learn from the mistakes of our past. Not ones who blindly vote and take us back from decades of research and science. The science and data are clear; our water should be also.