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June 2000, VOL. 18, NO. 2

IMCC 2000 Annual Meeting Held in Charleston, South Carolina

The 2000 Annual Meeting of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) was held May 7-10, 2000 at The Westin Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.

A welcoming reception was held on Sunday evening, May 7. On Monday, May 8, several excellent find speakers participated in the Monday monring General Session on topics including: "The Future Regulatory Envrionment in the Appalachian Coalfields After the Haden Decision"; "Enlibra: Putting the Principles into Practice at the State Level"; "As the Waters Flow: Cumulative Hydrologic Impacts"; and "Mine Reclamation -- What Kind of Legacy?". The Monday afternoon session consisted of two interactive forums on the topic: "Environmental Justice -- Implications for the Mining Community". Speakers for the forum included representatives from the U.S. Government, citizens, South Carolina State Government, the mining industry, and citizen groups. A second forum focused on "Crisis Management in the Environmental Arena" with speakers from a public relations firm and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

IMCC standing committees met during the day on Tuesday, May 9. The IMCC National Reclamation Awards and National Mineral Education Awards were presented at the Tuesday evening Awards Banquet. The Executive Commission Business Meeting took place on the following Wednesday.

IMCC Fall Meeting Scheduled for Washington, D.C.

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission's (IMCC) Fall Meeting will be held at the Washington Monarch Hotel in Washington, D.C. on October 31 - November 1, 2000. Standing committee meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, October 31. An informal reception will take place on Tuesday evening. The Executive Commission Business Meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 1.

Registration and hotel reservation information is available now from IMCC. For further information contact: Beth A. Botsis at 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

New Mexico and North Dakota Are New IMCC Associate Members

The states of New Mexico and North Dakota were officially and warmly welcomed as new associate members to the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) at its Executive Commission Business Meeting held on May 10, 2000, in conjunction with the IMCC Annual Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Governor Gary E. Johnson of New Mexico and Governor Edward T. Schafer of North Dakota had submitted letters prior to the meeting requesting to join the Compact as associate member states. The Compact currently is made up of 20 member states: 3 association member states (New Mexico, New York, and North Dakota), and 17 full member states (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia).

IMCC Mineral Education Workshop Postponed

The Mineral Education Workshop for North and South Carolina teachers which had been scheduled for Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina in May of 2000 has been postponed. Tentative plans are to hold the workshop in the Charlotte, North Carolina area in early March of 2001. Teachers from both North and South Carolina will be invited to attend the free hands-on workshop.

Indiana will host the next IMCC Mineral Education Workshop in the fall of 2000. Teachers from Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois will be invited to attend. Further information will be forthcoming. For information on the workshops, contact Beth A. Botsis at 703.709.8654, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

OSM Releases Final Oversight Report/Action Plan for Kentucky Mountain Top mining Issues

Katherine Henry, Acting Director of the Interior Department's Office of Suface Mining (OSM), recently announced the release of OSM's final oversight report evaluating approximate original contour and post-mining land uses for mountaintop mining in Kentucky. The report finalizes the conclusions and recommendations included in a draft report released in September 1999.

According to OSM, the action plan addresses all of the issues raised in the oversight report. In order to achieve consistency between the states, Kentucky has agreed to develop a guidance document to assist permit reviewers in making approximate original contour determinations. To address review findings, Kentucky is also revising database systems, findings documents, and reviewing post-mining land uses. In addition, Kentucky has submitted a proposed program amendment relating to steep slop variances affecting surface or groundwater hydrology.

For more information about the Kentucky report, contact Al Klein, OSM Appalachian Regional Director, at 412.937.2828. Electronic copies of both the draft report and the final report are available on OSM's web page. You may view or download copies of the report at: www.osmre.gov/mtindex.htm. Copies of the final report may also be obtained from OSM's Lexington Field Office, 2675 Regency Road, Lexington, KY 40503-2922, telephone 859.260.8400.

Virginia Develops Incentive for Reclaiming AML With Excess Spoil

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Mined Land Reclamation has recognized the need to create incentives for mine operators to remine abandoned mined lands (AML) so that reclamation of these areas may be accomplished without usling AML funds. One incentive being developed by the Division would allow excess spoil from active mine sites to be placed on AML sites through an agreement between the Division and the mine operator. This concept would allow the elimination of AML features at no cost to the AML Fund. In many cases, the features would otherwise not be reclaimed under the AML Program due to their low priority ranking.

The disposal of excess spoil on AML would follow these guidelines:
  • The AML area must be located in the general proximity of the permit area;
  • The AML area must be included on the AML inventory list;
  • The AML area must be referenced in the permit plans for the active operation;
  • Conditions for placement of spoil are to be outlined in a written agreement between the operator and the Division;
  • Only spoil not necessary to restore Approximate Original Contour (AOC) or reclaim the permitted area can be placed on AML;
  • The spoil must be placed where it will not destry or degrade features of environmental value;
  • Areas of excess spoil disposal must be eligible as noted in the state reclamation plan;
  • The mining company will not be required to permit the disposal area;
  • No coal can be removed from the disposal area unless the project falls under the AML Enhancement Guidelines.
Reclaiming adjacent AML sites with excess spoil generated from active mining can accomplish two goals: 1) reclaim AML lands at not cost to the state, and 2) reduce the need for valley fills on active mine sites.

The mine operator will be required to follow the AML Guidelines when completing a project and post a minimum AML bond for the area. Sediment control will be required for the area. Alternate sediment control such as straw bales and sediment fencing or even small ponds may be used. No water monitoring will be needed for the AML area. The area under the agreement will be seeded with an appropriate seed mixture that is compatible with the adjacent permit. Once two growing seasons have passed and vegetation has been established, the bond for the AML will be released.

For further information about Virginia's excess spoil incentive, contact Butch Lambert at the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy at 540.523.8286.

OSM Approves Virginia AML Enhancement Amendment

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) approved an amendment to VIrginia's Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program that offers additional flexibility for project funding. The new rule, approved on January 7, 2000, referred to as AML Enhancement, will allow incidental coal removal for projects receiving less than 50 percent government funding.

Under the existing Virginia Chapter 19 regulations, extraction of coal that is incidental to a government financed construction project is exempt from the Act and Chapter 19. The regulations had set the level of government financing at 50 percent or more of the construction budget. Relatively few construction projects have claimed this exemption, with the majority of those being highway construction projects. Previous to the amendment, no AML projects claimed the exemption.

Under the AML enhancement rule, coal can be removed from the project site and sold. Revenues from the sale of the coal are to be used to offset the porject reclamation costs. As there will be some level of government financing, it will not be necessary to obtain a Chapter 19 permit for this coal removal.

Virginia has an inventory of high priority AML features that have an estimated reclamation cost of over $100 million. With the AML Program fee collection scheduled to expire in September 2004, there is a likelihood that high priority problems may not be reclaimed. The flexibility provided by the enhancement rule will allow the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to stretch its limited funding to reclaim additional areas.

AML enhancement projects will be set up as routine state projects following guidelines of the State Reclamation Plan. The Division of Mined Land Reclamation must make a determination on the potential that coal could be mined on the site under a Title V permit and also will set the limits for coal extraction on the AML project. Although the enhancement projects are ideally suited to eliminating dangerous highwalls and reclaiming gob piles, other AML features could also be reclaimed through enhancement projects. Other states that are currently in the process of adopting a similar rule include: Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

CRBC Solicits RFPs for Coal Projects

The Combustion By-prodcuts Recycling Consortium (CRBC) recently solicited requests for proposals (RFPs) related to technologies that address issues related to the recycling of coal combustion by-products. CBRC is funded by the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory and is managed by the National Mine Land Reclamation Center at West Virginia University. The research needs identified in the RFP are prioritized on a regional basis (eastern, midwestern, and western) and a total of $1 million will be available for new CBRC projects in February 2001. Project funding is limited to two years, with a minimum private sector cost share of 25 percent. Proposals are due July 31, 2000. More information is available on the CBRC website located at http://cbrc.nrcc.wvu.edu.cbrchome.htm.

EPA Proposes Changes for Remining and Western Alkaline Mining Operations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed an amendment to the coal mining point source category that would benefit coal producers who engage in remining or in Western alkaline mining operations.

The amendment would add two new subcategories. The first would address pre-existing discharges at coal remining operations by allowing site-specific effluent limits for pre-existing discharges at remining oeprations. The purpose of this new subcategory is to eliminate a disincentive to coal remining created by the high compliance costs of meeting the strict standards in the current regulations and to facilitate the expanded use of coal remining permits.

The second subcategory would address drainage from coal mining reclamation areas in the arid and semiarid Western states by allowing alternative sediment control technologies. With this subcategory, EPA is proposing to revise the effluent limitations guidelines for alkaline mining to more appropriately address the geological, hydrological, and ecological differences found in the West. The proposal is not intended to change the existing regulations.

EPA Declares Coal Ash Nonhazardous; IMCC Adopts Resolution

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently decided that future management of coal combustion by-products should fall under the Subtitle D, nonhazardous solid waste requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA's decision came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied an EPA request for a four-month extension to the deadline for making the final decision.

The environmental community urged EPA to manage coal ash under stringent RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste rules, rather than Subtitle D, which covers nonhazardous solid waste. Following a 1999 report to Congress, in which EPA tentatively concluded the wastes should be managed as nonhazardous, environmentalists alleged that groundwater was being contaminated by coal ash because of inadequate state regulatory programs or mismanagement of the waste. EPA requested a deadline extension, first until April 10, then until April 25, to review the issue and was considering reversing its preliminary decision by making a "hazardous" determination for coal combustion by-products. EPA later asked for more time, until August 4, to review additional information, to conduct outreach to interested parties, and to take into account new studies expected in June from the National Academies of Science (NAS). On April 25 the court turned down the request, saying EPA should have known the NAS report was due shortly, that no additional information had been received since the most recent extension, and that the agency previously had asked for time to conduct outreach activities.

EPA then determined that the wastes would not be classified as hazardous, but said the agency would revisit the decision "if the states and industry do not take steps to address these wastes adequately in a reasonable amount of time."

IMCC adopted a resolution at its Executive Commission Business Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina on May 10, 2000 "affirming the appropriateness and effectiveness of state regulations and policies for the safe handling, recycling, beneficial use and placement of coal combustion by-products." The resolution outlines the states' position of support for the management of coal combustion by-products without the application of federal RCRA subtitle C requirements. The resolution states that "coal combustion by-products are widely employed in beneficial uses such as mine site reclamation including stabilization, acid mine drainapanies are using waste coal as fuel -- an din the process are utlizing coal combustion by-products for cleaning up abandoned mine sites and waste coal piles at no cost to the taxpayer." States claim that a decision by EPA to regulate coal combustion by-products as hazardous would jeopardize these beneficial uses and inhibit environmental cleanup without a commensurate reduction in environmental risk.
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