President Donald Trump has now signed an order that repeals the Stream Protection Rule in the United States.
The rule had been intended to protect almost 10,000 kilometres of streams and 52,000 acres of forests in the US. It would have prohibited surface mining within 30 metres of streams. Bloomberg notes, "It was meant to stop the practice of dumping mining waste in streams and valleys during mountaintop mining."
In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Trout Unlimited president Chris Wood writes, "Over the past 20 years, mining operations have buried or degraded nearly 3,200 kilometres of streams in Appalachia. It goes without saying that cutting the tops off mountains and dumping them in streams is bad for fishing. It is also bad for anyone who cares about clean water."
Bloomberg notes, "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has led the opposition to the rule, calling it 'an attack against coal miners'. Others against it included the United Mine Workers of America and the National Mining Association, a Washington-based trade group representing companies such as Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp."
Trump stated, "In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations."
When Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in Washington earlier this week, they signed a Joint Statement that pledged, "We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards."
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has already expressed concern about "any potential competitiveness imbalances" between Canada and the US. CAPP vice-president Ben Brunnen says, "We're keenly aware of the importance of a level playing field where investment can flow over the border quite freely."
And just days after Trudeau and Trump met in the White House, the Mining Association of Canada released a report citing regulatory delays and uncertainty as reasons mining investments could move outside the country.
The Council of Canadians has been calling on the prime ministert to restore and enhance the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, critical elements of water protection that had been gutted by the Harper government.
For example, the Fisheries Act allows the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to authorize deposits of deleterious substances into waterways if the “whole of the deposit is not acutely lethal to fish". The regulation defines “acutely lethal” as a deposit that kills more than 50 per cent of fish at 100 per cent concentration over a 96 hour period.
Despite their election campaign promise to restore and enhance this legislation, no substantive action has taken place in this regard.
We should all be concerned that Trudeau's pledge of regulatory cooperation with Trump along with corporate pressure within Canada will mean that lakes and rivers in Canada will continue to be under threat from abuse and pollution.