The Obama administration proposed stronger regulations for mountaintop coal mining on Thursday, triggering an immediate backlash from Republican lawmakers who say the rules would harm working families.

The new regulations would strengthen rules for coal mining near waterways and streams, where soil runoff from excavating for coal can cause lasting environmental harm to water quality and wildlife.

The rules would require a broad set of measures that the industry must abide by to continue operating, including land reclamation and other activities expected to add significant costs. The rules come as coal production has fallen to historic lows and the demand for coal electricity has plunged because of cheap natural gas prices. The industry blames the growing number of regulations as the primary culprit for the the drop.

Thursday's regulation, the Stream Protection Rule, would primarily affect Appalachian coal states. The effect would be most felt in Kentucky, the home of GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been outspoken in opposing a variety of rules targeting the industry. West Virginia, another big coal state, also would be one of the most affected. The Mountain State also has been opposed to the administration's broad campaign of coal regulations.

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell stressed on a call with reporters that the regulations were not developed in a vacuum and that great pains were taken to reach out to stakeholders. She stressed that the regulation is only proposed, with extra time for those affected to respond.

Jewell said the regulations represent "what Americans expect from their government" and would make "coal communities ... more resilient" in guiding them to deploy the most environmentally sustainable mining practices and technologies.

She said the cost of the rule would be minimal, based on the agency's economic assessment of the economic effects, with an acceptable number of job losses that she described as a "couple of hundred jobs in coal country." She said it was an acceptable number to proceed with the regulation, a necessary revision of mining rules that haven't been updated for more than 30 years.

Other officials on the call said the rules would increase the cost of coal for electricity production by 1.2 percent, while raising electric prices marginally.

Jewell also said the agency would be giving stakeholders an additional 60 days to weigh in on the rules' requirements before moving to finalize the regulations by the end of the year.

Republicans almost immediately lashed out at the regulation, sparring with Democrats over the need for the rules.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the rules prove the administration to be a "bully regulation machine," saying the Interior Department "shamelessly sidelined the states in their secret development of the rule."

"Nine out of 10 states have rejected the dog and pony show of inclusion [the Office of Surface Mining] has put forward," Bishop said. "I am afraid that their concerns with the impacts of the rule on Americans will be cast aside. Clearly, the Obama administration will stop at nothing to stomp out American livelihoods dependent on coal."

His Democratic counterpart, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, fired back, accusing the GOP "obstructionism."

"Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink at this rule, and then they threw the sink," he said. "If my colleagues across the aisle have no appetite for environmental protection, they could at least get out of the way and let the agencies do their jobs."

Jewell noted that one of the reasons the rule took nearly six years to complete was due to congressional oversight hearings. She also noted that with reduced budgets, Interior staff have been limited in their work on the regulation.

The agency will begin a series of five public hearings in coal country later this summer.