Trump to reverse rule approved by Obama during Valley visit
By David Skolnick
Less than a month after being sworn in as president, Donald J. Trump is planning to come Thursday to the Mahoning Valley to sign a bill that coal supporters say will help the struggling industry.
The bill to be signed by Trump, a Republican, reverses a rule approved by the Barack Obama administration during the Democrat’s final days as president to limit companies from dumping mining waste in streams. The rule never took effect.
Republicans, who control Congress, say the “Stream Protection Rule” was overregulation by Obama, and rejecting it protects coal miner jobs. The rule required companies to restore mined areas to their original physical and ecological state and to monitor for environmental effects, according to The New York Times.
The details of Trump’s visit aren’t finalized, but the preliminary plan is for him to leave the White House at 10:40 a.m. Thursday, fly to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna to sign the bill and make remarks at noon and leave the airport at 1:30 p.m., sources familiar with the president’s plans told The Vindicator on Saturday.
Trumbull County isn’t coal country, and one source said the administration considered coal locations — most notably St. Clairsville in Belmont County — for the event.
But, that source said, the ease of using the airport and the county’s proximity to western Pennsylvania, where coal is mined, helped with the decision.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, sponsored the legislation in the House to overturn the rule. In a Feb. 1 statement after the House voted 228-194 for his proposal, Johnson, who represents Columbiana County and southern Mahoning County, said: “It is clear that the poorly named ‘Stream Protection Rule’ was not designed to protect streams. Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry out of business, through overly burdensome regulations.” The Senate voted 54-45 on Feb. 2 for Johnson’s legislation.
This will be Trump’s first visit to the Valley – and Ohio – as president. Johnson will be there with the president.
Trump campaigned in the area three times last year including a rally on March 14 – the day before the Republican primary – at Winner Aviation at the airport. He also visited Youngstown State University in August and the Canfield Fair in September.
Trump became the first GOP presidential nominee to win Democratic-controlled Trumbull County since Richard Nixon in 1972.
Trump captured 50.7 percent of the vote to 44.5 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton in Trumbull on his way to winning Ohio and the national election. Clinton won in Mahoning County, which is even more strongly Democratic than Trumbull, 49.9 percent to 46.6 percent over Trump.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was quick to criticize Trump’s planned visit and the overturning of the stream rule.
“I guess we should be honored by the fact that the polluter-in-chief is going to visit the Valley to sign an executive order that will poison water across the United States and jeopardize the health of millions of families. I find it ironic that instead of putting coal miners back to work, which the proposed order will not do, he’s decided to injure and kill them instead.”
“The people of the Mahoning Valley know that allowing corporate mining owners to contaminate our waterways will not put anyone back to work, nor will it improve our local economy, or economies like ours across the Midwest,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who voted against repealing the rule.
Republicans point out that there are still numerous safeguards in place that prohibit the dumping of mining waste into bodies of water.
Tracey Winbush, Mahoning County Republican Party vice chairwoman who ran Trump’s campaign in the county, said she is excited that the president is coming to the area.
“Anything he can do to get the economy moving, particularly in the Mahoning Valley, is a good thing,” she said. “No one paid attention to us here for decades. It’s nice to have the administration pay attention to the Mahoning Valley. We have great people here, and we need jobs. Hopefully this will draw attention to the area and help the economy grow. I’m glad to see him come to town. It’s only been a little more than three weeks since he took office.”