Republicans Challenge Interior Department’s Estimate of Coal Mining Job Losses

October 28, 2015


The Office of Surface Mining proposed a stream protection rule in July that would implement a series of new standards and requirements to prevent surface and other types of mining from unnecessarily harming streams, ecosystems, and wildlife. It is intended to stop the worst effects of mountaintop removal mining, in which mountaintops are blasted. Waste material often winds up in stream valleys.


The Interior Department estimated that fewer than 300 jobs would be lost and that almost all of them would be replaced. A new study commissioned by the National Mining Association and released on October 26 estimates that as many as 78,000 jobs would be lost as a result of the rule.


Senate Republicans are questioning the Obama Administration’s estimate. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on October 27 in which Republican senators asked Interior Department officials to explain how they arrived at their estimate and why it differs so much from other figures.


Janice Schneider, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and mineral management, said the NMA study misinterpreted the rule. She said the study incorrectly assumed that the proposed rule would prohibit longwall mining, a type of underground mining. She said it would not.


Hal Quinn, the president of the NMA, said the Interior Department’s estimate is flawed because the department based its figures on hypothetical mines, not actual ones. He said the NMA based its estimate on a study of 36 operating underground and surface mines across the United States. Democratic Senator Al Franken questioned the 78,000 job loss figure, which would account for over 75 percent of all coal miners in the United States.