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July 2003, VOL. 21, NO. 2

IMCC Fall Business Meeting Planned for Santa Fe, New Mexico

The 2003 Fall Business Meeting of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) is scheduled to be held November 18-19 at La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

IMCC’s standing committee meetings will meet all day on Tuesday, November 18 and continue the morning of Wednesday, November 19. The Executive Commission Business Meeting will also take place on Wednesday, November 19, following the committee meetings.

A registration form for the meeting is included in this issue of The Compact. Member states will be receiving a more detailed mailing regarding the meeting in September. Contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC 2004 Annual Meeting Scheduled for Virginia Beach

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) will hold its next Annual Meeting at The Founder’s Inn in Virginia Beach, Virginia on April 25-28, 2004.

The meeting will commence with a welcoming reception the night of Sunday, April 25. The IMCC Environmental Affairs Committee, Noncoal Section will meet on Monday, April 26 following a welcoming address (speaker TBD). The Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee will meet on Tuesday, April 27. Resolutions and Finance Committees will meet the morning of Wednesday, April 28, followed by the Annual Executive Commission Business Meeting.

Social events scheduled during the meeting include a casual reception the evening of Monday, April 26, and the annual awards banquet, scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, April 27.

Mark your calendars and plan to attend the meeting. Further information and registration materials will be mailed in January, 2004, and will be included in a future issue of The Compact newsletter. Contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Recent IMCC Publications

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) has recently published its 2002 Annual Report and updated Membership Directory. Copies of both publications are in the process of being sent to all IMCC member states, committee members, and other interested parties, along with the recently updated IMCC Strategic Plan (see article in the April 2003 Compact newsletter).

For further information, or to request copies of either publication, contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Nominations Sought for IMCC’s 2004 Mineral Education Awards

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) is calling for nominations for the 2004 Mineral Education Awards. Each year IMCC presents awards in two categories: the Mining Awareness Educator Award, which is presented to an individual school teacher or school from an IMCC member state, and the Public Outreach Award, which is presented to an industry, environmental, citizen or other group, and/or to a state government body, and/or an individual (other than a school teacher).

A person or organization may self-nominate or may be nominated by someone else using the appropriate (provided) form and any supporting materials. The winners of the two awards will be selected by the IMCC Education Work Group from among those nominated. Awards will be presented at the annual awards banquet to be held in conjunction with IMCC’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia in April, 2004.

Copies of the criteria and nomination forms have been sent to all IMCC member state contacts for distribution to potential nominees. Others who wish to receive a copy of the criteria and nomination forms should contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Announces 2004 National Reclamation Awards Program

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently announced the call for nominations by member states for the 2004 National Reclamation Awards Program. The awards are presented each year at the annual awards banquet which is held in conjunction with IMCC’s annual meeting. The 2004 meeting is scheduled to be held at The Founder’s Inn in Virginia Beach, VA, April 25-28. The banquet will take place on the evening of April 27.

Competition for the awards is limited to IMCC states with each state regulatory authority authorized to make one nomination in each of three categories: coal, noncoal, and small operator. To be eligible, a mining company must have been actively mining/reclaiming the site during the 12-month period prior to the nomination. Nominees must demonstrate accomplishment in areas of criteria regarding: compliance, contemporaneous reclamation, drainage, post-mining land use; and innovative practices. Nominations are reviewed and winners chosen by the IMCC Awards Committee in the early spring.

The formal call for nominations together with criteria explanation and nomination forms was recently mailed to all IMCC member states. For further information, contact: Beth A. Botsis, phone: 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Testifies Before House Subcommittee on AML Program

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) presented joint testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the House Resources Committee regarding the future of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program on July 24, 2003. Murray J. Balk, Chief of the Surface Mining Section of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment presented the testimony on behalf of IMCC and NAAMLP.

IMCC and NAAMLP outlined the successes and effectiveness of the AML program since its inception 25 years ago. In his testimony, Mr. Balk stated, “We strongly feel that the future of the AML program should continue to focus on the underlying principles and priorities upon which the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) was founded – protection of the public health and safety, environmental restoration, and economic development in the coalfields of America.” He continued by saying: “Over the past 25 years, tens of thousands of acres of mined land have been reclaimed, thousands of mine openings have been closed, and safeguards for people, property and the environment have been put in place.”

In the testimony, IMCC and NAAMLP cite information maintained by the Office of Surface Mining in its Abandoned Mine Land Inventory System (AMLIS) which indicates that, as of September 30, 2002, the states and tribes have obligated 94% of all AML funds and $1.7 billion worth of priority 1 and 2 coal-related problems have been reclaimed. Another $319 million worth of priority 3 problems have been funded or completed (many in conjunction with a priority 1 or 2 project) and $309 million worth of noncoal problems have been funded or reclaimed. The testimony also points out that the monetary figures related to the amount of AML work accomplished to date do not reflect the fact that a significant amount of money is spent by the states and tribes for related project and construction costs that do not find their way into the AMLIS. These costs (which amount to hundreds of millions of dollars for all states and tribes) include engineering, aerial surveys, realty work, inspections, and equipment. As a result, the actual amount of money that has been spent by the states and tribes for construction or project costs is approximately $2.8 billion – $2.5 billion of which was for coal projects and $.3 billion for noncoal projects. Also, of the $3.3 billion provided to states and tribes in Title IV monies over the years, only $500 million has been spent on true administrative costs, which reflects a modest average of 15%.

According to the testimony, the AML Trust Fund, and the work of the states and tribes pursuant to the distribution of moneys from the Fund, have played an important role in achieving the goals and objectives set forth by Congress when SMCRA was enacted – including protecting public health and safety, enhancing the environment, providing employment and adding to the economies of communities impacted by past coal mining. IMCC and NAAMLP also asked the Subcommittee to keep in mind that, “the AML program is first and foremost designed to protect public health and safety and, even though accomplishments are reported in acreage for the sake of consistency, the bulk of states and tribal AML projects directly correct an AML feature that threatens someone’s personal safety or welfare. While state and tribal AML programs do complete significant projects that benefit the environment, the primary focus has been on eliminating health and safety hazards first and the inventory of completed work reflects this fact.”

The testimony also emphasizes that the inventory also reflects, to some degree, the escalating cost of addressing AML problems as they continue to go unattended due to insufficient appropriations from the Fund for state and tribal AML programs. Unaddressed sites tend to get worse over time, thus increasing reclamation costs. Inflation exacerbates these costs. The longer the reclamation is postponed, the less reclamation will be accomplished. States and tribes are also finding new high priority problems each year, especially as urban areas grow closer to what were formerly rural abandoned minesites. New sites also continually manifest themselves due to time and weather. This underscores the need for continual inventory updates.

IMCC and NAAMLP also testified on behalf of those states that have been labeled “minimum program states” due to their minimal coal production, and thus minimal AML fee collection. Many of these states have not, however, been minimally impacted by pre-SMCRA mining. The minimum program states struggle to simply maintain a cost-effective AML program with their most recent $1.5 million allocations, much less undertake AML projects that can approach $1 million. As an example, according to Mr. Balk’s testimony, Kansas alone has nearly $200 million of priority 1 and 2 AML problems that remain unreclaimed. Without the statutorily authorized amount of $2 million mandated by Congress in the 1990 amendments to Title IV of SMCRA, these states will continue to be forced to fund or even delay high priority projects over several years. Not only is this dangerous, it is not cost-effective. The subcommittee was urged to resolve the dilemma faced by the minimum program states and to provide relief as they consider amendments to Title IV.

As the September 30, 2004 expiration date of the AML Fund approaches, the states and tribes urged the subcommittee to consider several proposed amendments which incorporate changes necessary to accomplish key objectives. Those changes are:
  • To extend fee collection authority for another 12 years until September 30, 2016, which should be sufficient to address the majority of high priority coal health and safety problems throughout the country.
  • To adjust the procedure by which states and tribes receive their annual allocations of moneys to address AML problems, which has been one of the greatest inhibitions to progress under Title IV of SMCRA in recent years and must be addressed in order for states and tribes to get more work done on the ground within the extended time frame of 12 years. Accordingly, the states and tribes recommend taking their portion of the AML allocation off-budget so that they are able to count on certain, consistent funding from year to year, thereby allowing them to more effectively and efficiently plan and deliver their services.
  • To confirm recent Congressional intent to eliminate the Rural Abandoned Mine Program (RAMP) under Title IV and to reallocate those moneys to the historic coal production share. While these moneys would be used primarily to address high priority coal related sites, the states and tribes may coordinate their efforts with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the local soil and water conservation districts in an attempt to address their concerns as well.
  • To assure adequate funding for minimum program (under-funded) states who have consistently received less than their promised share of funding over the past several years, thereby undermining the effectiveness of their AML programs.
  • To address a few other select provisions of Title IV that will enhance the overall effectiveness of the AML program, including remining incentives, state set-aside programs, handling of liens, and enhancing the ability of states to undertake water line projects.
  • Finally, to address how the accumulated, unappropriated state and tribal share balances in the Fund will be handled assuming that the interest in the Fund is no longer needed to address shortfalls in the United Mine Workers Combined Benefit Fund.
IMCC and NAAMLP concluded by offering to work with the subcommittee and other affected parties to address the myriad issues that attend the future ability of the AML Program to address the needs of coalfield citizens. “We are faced with a significant challenge over the next few months,” Mr. Balk stated, “and that is to reconcile all of the various interests and concerns attending the administration of the AML Program under Title IV of SMCRA in a way that assures the continuing integrity, credibility and effectiveness of this successful and meaningful program under SMCRA.”

OSM Brochure Warns Public of AML Dangers

The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently distributed a brochure designed to warn people about the dangers of abandoned mines. The brochure has “one simple message,” according to OSM Director Jeff Jarrett: “Keep Out, Old Mines Are Dangerous!” People are killed and injured every year while exploring or playing on abandoned mines, usually because they are unaware of the dangers. Abandoned underground mines are not like naturally-formed caves which are attractive to recreational and professional explorers. Mine tunnels conceal many potentially lethal hazards, including deadly gases, poisonous snakes, cave-ins, unused or misfired explosives, and vertical shafts hidden within the tunnels. Untrained or unauthorized individuals are frequently not aware of these dangers. Every year people drown in abandoned surface mine impoundments and flooded mine pits, unaware of hidden objects under the water and the steep, slippery sides of the impoundment or pit. For additional information about abandoned mine dangers, and information about the brochures, see: www.osmre.gov/keepout.htm, or call OSM at: 202.208.2719.
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