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December 2006, VOL. 24, NO. 4

IMCC 2007 Mid-Year Meeting to be Held in Park City, Utah

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) 2007 Mid-Year Meeting is scheduled to be held in Park City, Utah on October 16-17 at the Park City Marriott.

The meeting will begin on Wednesday, October 16 with IMCC committee meetings which will continue throughout the day. A luncheon will also take place on Tuesday. The Executive Commission Business Meeting will conclude the Mid-Year Meeting on Wednesday, October 17.

More information about the meeting along with registration forms will appear in a later issue of the “Compact” newsletter, and will be posted on the IMCC website at www.imcc.isa.us as it becomes available. Access upcoming meeting information by clicking on the “Conference info” tab from the home page.

Contact: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Registration Has Begun for IMCC 2007 Annual Meeting

The last issue of the “Compact” announced the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) which will be held from April 29 - May 2, 2007 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Begin making your plans now to attend the 2007 Annual Meeting.

For more information, see the last issue of the “Compact” newsletter, or visit the IMCC website at www.imcc.isa.us and click on the “Conference info” tab from the home page. You can also contact Beth Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us. The registration form is available to be downloaded and printed from the website.

OSM Establishes Geospatial Task Force

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently established the Coal-Mining Spatial Data Standards Task Group to develop standards for exchanging geospatial data about coal mines. Standardizing the way coal- mining geospatial data is exchanged will result in better enforcement of mining laws and faster response to mining-related emergencies, according to OSM. It will also improve protection of the environment and public from the potential impacts of coal mining.

Geospatial data are used to locate natural or man-made features on, below, or even above the earth’s surface. In particular, the boundaries of surface and underground coal mines can be mapped precisely and managed as data. Standardizing the way such geospatial data are expressed will enable the data to be exchanged quickly and accurately among agencies using different computer software. According to OSM, standards developed by the task group could ultimately help different enforcement agencies cooperate to reduce environmental impacts outside of mine boundaries or guide the efforts of rescue workers trying to reach miners trapped in an underground mine.

The task group will develop voluntary standards for the exchange of coal-mining spatial data among state, tribal, and OSM offices, as well as the coal-mining industry and the public. Standards will be developed in line with procedures of the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) International, an organization which develops and provides voluntary consensus standards for a great many technical applications.

Members of the group are volunteer representatives of state coal-mining regulatory programs, OSM offices, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The coal-mining industry and special interest groups have also been asked to join. The group is supported by OSM’s Technical Innovation and Professional Services (TIPS) program.

IMCC Briefs OMB on State Funding Needs

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC), together with the Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB), provided a briefing to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on December 5 concerning federal funding for state regulatory programs under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). The briefing focused on the key challenges facing states who exercise primary regulatory authority for surface coal mining operations within their borders. Among the topics discussed during the briefing were funding trends over the past several fiscal years; the impact that uncontrollables and personnel costs have on state programs; the potential impacts on coal production when state programs are not adequately funded, particularly in the West; and the consequences for the federal government should states be unable to run their own programs due to under-funding. The state representatives participating in the briefing also met with officials from the Interior Department’s Budget Office to discuss funding concerns. The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) proposed a $2 million increase in state regulatory grants in Fiscal Year 2007, but this increase is threatened due to the delay in approving the Interior Department’s budget on Capitol Hill.

IMCC Submits Comments on Several Key Agency Proposals

Over the course of the past several weeks, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) submitted comments to several key federal regulatory agencies concerning various proposed rules or plans as follows:

Interior Department’s Draft Strategic Plan:
On October 20, IMCC submitted comments to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) concerning its draft strategic plan for Fiscal Years 2007-2012. IMCC commented on the four specific performance measures included in the draft strategic plan that relate to the restoration of abandoned mine lands and active mining operations. IMCC supported three of the four measures but urged DOI to reconsider and revise the fourth measure dealing with “the percent of mined acreage reclaimed”, which is used to measure reclamation success. In its comments, IMCC explained that this new measure is defined in such a way as to double or triple count acres reclaimed and in some cases does not line up with the number of acres under permit or with the actual acres disturbed. “As a bottom line”, IMCC noted, “both Interior and the states are looking for the same type of measure when it comes to responsible development of the coal resource; that is, one that provides a clear picture of the amount of land that has been disturbed to access the coal resource and the extent to which that disturbed land has been regulated or reclaimed and returned to its intended post-mining use.” IMCC urged Interior to allow the states to continue use of the existing performance measure for reclamation success (phase 3 bond release) until such time as a more effective and accurate measure can be devised.

Nationwide Permits:
On November 11, IMCC submitted comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerning a proposal to reissue and modify nationwide permits under section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Among other things, the proposal would establish a new nationwide permit (NWP) for remining activities (NWP E). While endorsing the adoption of this new NWP, IMCC cautioned that the permit should not inhibit or discourage in any way the valuable work that is undertaken by the states pursuant to the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). IMCC also endorsed the integrated permit processing procedure proposed by the Corps for NWP 21 for surface coal mining operations. “We assert that the SMCRA permit is the most effective platform for authorizing surface coal mining operations and that a high level of coordination is essential among all agencies affected by the SMCRA permit, with the states taking the lead consistent with the principles of primacy under SMCRA”, IMCC stated. IMCC also commented on those aspects of the proposal addressing ephemeral streams, pre-construction notification, and acreage limits.

Ownership and Control:
On December 11, IMCC filed comments on a proposed rule published by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) regarding ownership and control. The rule supports the implementation of the Applicant/Violator System (AVS), which blocks permits to coal operators with outstanding violations or fines under SMCRA. IMCC strongly recommended that the rules be adjusted to allow states to continue collecting permit application information on all of a permit applicant’s owners and controllers. “Without this information”, IMCC asserted, “it places a heavy burden on the states to identify all controllers and to determine all control relationships. Without obtaining this information as part of the permit application process, the states will be forced to initiate extensive investigations that are both time and personnel intensive. We simply do not have the resources that will be required to undertake these investigations.” IMCC also commented on those aspects of the proposed rule concerning burden of proof; transfer, assignment or sale of permit rights; successors in interest; notification regarding bonding coverage; and the removal of certain procedures for improvidently issued state permits.

NMA's Mine Safety Commission Releases Report

The Mine Safety Technology and Training Commission, which was formed under the auspices of the National Mining Association (NMA), released its final report recently that urges implementation of a new underground coal mine safety paradigm built on a twin foundation of systematic and comprehensive risk management. The report contains 75 specific long and short-term recommendations that address a broad range of safety, technology and training subjects. Many of the Commission’s recommendations endorse actions taken earlier this year by Congress in passing the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006. The report can be accessed at: www.coalminingsafety.org/documents/msttc_report.pdf.

Congress Passes Landmark AML Reauthorization Legislation

After more than ten years of struggling to enact comprehensive legislation to reform and reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), Congress passed a bill as part of a massive tax extenders package on December 9 to extend the AML program for 15 years. Among other things, the bill provides for automatic annual payments to states of their 50 percent share of receipts from AML fees that are paid on every ton of coal produced in the U.S. States will also receive, over a seven year period of time, the unappropriated balances that are held for them in the AML Trust Fund. The bill also contains provisions that address provisions in Title IV of SMCRA that have proven problematic for the states over the years, including lien provisions, restrictions on amounts of money that can be spent on water replacement projects, and limitations on set-aside programs for addressing acid mine drainage problems. Pursuant to the new bill, the fees that coal operators pay will be reduced 20 percent over the expanded life of the program and interest collected on the AML Trust Fund will be available to address deficits in the Combined Benefit Fund, the United Mine Workers pension plan for retired miners and their families.

IMCC Addresses State Perspective on Underground Mine Mapping

On October 11, IMCC Executive Director Greg Conrad provided a state perspective on underground mine mapping before the Committee on Earth Resources within the National Academy of Sciences. The Committee is considering the potential for a study on mine mapping strategies and future actions. IMCC provided an overview of recent state initiatives, including two national and two regional underground mine mapping workshops. Among the topics addressed by the states in workshops and recent surveys have been handling, scanning, enhancing, geo-referencing and validating mine maps; database management, including the nature and types of databases and how to capture geologic data from mine maps; and delivering and serving up mine maps to users via the internet. Among the challenges for the states that were presented to the Committee were resources for mine map initiatives, expertise and technology; and legal impediments.

IMCC Presents State Perspective on NRC Report re. Mine Placement of Coal Ash

IMCC’s Executive Director Greg Conrad recently presented a state perspective on the National Research Council’s Report on “Managing Coal Combustion Residues at Mines”. Speaking at an Interactive Forum on Flue Gas Desulfurization By-Products at Coal Mines sponsored by the Office of Surface Mining on November 14-16 in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Conrad addressed the high and low points of the report and the implications for the states. “As states, we are encouraged with the report’s recognition of our role as front-line primary regulators in this area under all of the key environmental laws that the NRC Committee identified as potentially applicable to minefilling”, Conrad noted. “We are particularly encouraged by the Committee’s recommendation that OSM [the Office of Surface Mining] and its state partners should take the lead in developing any new national standards for the disposal of CCR’s [coal combustion refuse] in minefills.” Conrad detailed those areas of the report that are of concern to the states, including CCR characterization (test methods, parameters and frequency); site characterizations; monitoring (compliance point, duration, reactions with water); performance measures; and reporting requirements. A copy of IMCC’s presentation is available by contacting Greg Conrad at gconrad@imcc.isa.us.

New and Re-elected Governors to Serve as IMCC Commissioners

The 2007 elections saw the re-election of several Governors who will continue to serve as Commissioner of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) including Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina; Governor Bob Riley of Alabama; Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois; Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma; Governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania; Governor Rick Perry of Texas; Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico; and Governor Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming. Newly elected Governors who will serve as Commissioners upon their inauguration include Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska; Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas; Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland; Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York; and Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio. At IMCC’s recent Mid-Year meeting, the following Governors were elected to serve as officers during 2007: Governor Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Chairman; Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Vice Chairman; and Governor John H. Hoeven of North Dakota, Treasurer.

IMCC Releases Report on State Regulation of Subsidence

As part of its ongoing state regulatory program benchmarking initiative, IMCC recently conducted a survey of the states concerning the regulation of subsidence associated with underground mining. The survey gathers information on how each state has approached the implementation of the various subsidence permitting and performance standards under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) (for coal regulatory programs) or under other applicable state laws (for the noncoal sector). The survey collected information in five categories: General; Structures; Land; Water Supplies; and Mine Subsidence Insurance Programs. IMCC recently released a report that collates all of the responses from those states that participated in the survey. Copies of the report are available from IMCC.
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