Joe Pizarchik spent more than seven years working on a regulation to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.
It took Congress 25 hours to kill it.
The rule is just one of dozens enacted in the final months of the Obama administration that congressional Republicans have begun erasing under a once-obscure law — much to the dismay of agency staffers who hauled those regulations through the long process to implementation.
“My biggest disappointment is a majority in Congress ignored the will of the people,” said Pizarchik, who directed the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from 2009 through January. “They ignored the interests of the people in coal country, they ignored the law and they put corporate money ahead of all that.”
The arrival of a Republican president opened the door for GOP lawmakers to employ a rarely used legislative tool, the Congressional Review Act of 1996, to nullify executive branch regulations issued since mid-June. The act allows lawmakers to sandblast recently enacted rules with a simple majority vote — as they did last week to the stream regulation, which the Interior Department had completed in December.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign off on that repeal, along with others moving through the Capitol.
Congress has successfully used the 1996 law only once before, but Republicans are wielding it now to slash away potentially dozens of late-term Obama rules. That has left officials who spent years working on those rules feeling rubbed raw.
“It’s devastating, of course,” said Alexandra Teitz, a longtime Democratic Hill aide who joined Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in 2014 as a counselor to the agency’s director and worked on a rule to curb methane waste from oil and gas production. A House-passed Congressional Review Act resolution targeting that rule awaits action in the Senate.
Pizarchik and other former Obama administration officials called the rapid repeal process intensely unfair. The 1996 law says any repeal must come within 60 legislative days after a rule becomes final.
“If there had been more time and Congress had not rushed this through but had actually deliberated on what was in the rule, [then] the results would have been different,” Pizarchik said.
But proponents of the repeal process maintain that it is a blunt but necessary tool.
“It’s important that Congress have a say in the rules that are applied in this country,” said James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation. “The CRA just makes it easier for Congress and the president to make sure the rules and actions of the agencies reflect their priority.”
The House took up a repeal resolution for Pizarchik’s stream rule shortly before 2 p.m. Feb. 1. The Senate wrapped up its vote — all Republicans but one were…