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June 2005, VOL. 23, NO. 1

Note: There was no issue of "The Compact" Newsletter published in March 2005.

IMCC Holds 2005 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) 2005 Annual Meeting was held April 24-27 at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The meeting was kicked-off on April 25 with welcoming remarks by Katie McGinty, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Following Ms McGinty, Donald S. Welch, Region III Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented EPA remarks. A General Session followed with speakers addressing topics including: “Quarry Development and Groundwater (Sinkholes) in Carbonate Rock Terrains” and “Mine Drainage Re-Use and By-Products.” The Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee and the Mine Safety and Health Committee met jointly following the General Session. Attendees enjoyed a networking dinner at Pietro’s Coal-Fired Oven Pizzeria in the evening.

On Tuesday, April 26, the Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee and the Abandoned Mine Land Committee met jointly. The committees were honored by the presence of Office of Surface Mining Director Jeff Jarrett and various members of his staff. The Annual Awards Banquet took place that evening. During the banquet, IMCC’s 2005 National Reclamation Awards and Minerals Education Awards were presented.

The Resolutions Committee and Finance and Administrative Committee met jointly on the morning of April 27, followed by the Annual Executive Commission Business Meeting.

IMCC’s 2006 Annual Meeting has been scheduled for April 30-May 3 at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota. Information on the meeting will be available in a future issue of the Compact, and on IMCC’s website: www.imcc.isa.us.

National Energy Legislation Debate Intensifies

National energy legislation was passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a large bi-partisan majority on May 26 and floor debate was set to begin on June 14 on the Senate floor. While the Energy and Natural Resources Committee had already completed work on its portion of the legislation as of early June, the tax title was to be taken up on June 16 by the Senate Finance Committee, and expected to be offered as an amendment on the floor.

The clean coal power initiative authorizes $1.6 billion over 8 years and requires that 80 percent of the funds be spent for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) projects, with 20 percent allocated to other projects. The recently passed House bill provides $1.9 billion over 9 years with 60 percent allocated to IGCC projects.

Research and development authorizations specifically for basic coal research are set at $891 million as part of a three-year program. The House bill authorizes fossil energy research for a five year period but does not include a specific set aside for coal research.

Loan guarantees are provided as “incentives for innovative technologies.” Clean coal, nuclear, renewable energy and alternative vehicles are all eligible for the program. The guarantees would be up front incentives directed at spurring investor interest and lessening risk for lending institutions. To qualify for the guarantees, projects must involve new technology and must reduce air pollution or greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). The loan guarantees come from a special Energy Loan Guarantee Fund that is funded through project-by-project appropriations and/or contributions by market participants. Republican committee members noted the loan guarantee program is their answer to pressure for climate measures and stressed they are committed to working for technological innovations rather than emissions reductions mandates.

Federal Coal Leasing provisions would make several changes to current law including: lease modifications to avoid the bypass of coal; mining requirements for logical mining units; payment of advance royalties; and the deadline for submission of a coal lease operation and reclamation plan.

Critical funding for research and development of new advanced clean coal technologies and loan guarantees and possible tax incentives to speed their use would be provided for in the tax title amendment. It would also modernize the federal coal leasing program and include other provisions to expand energy supplies. The overall impact would be to ensure energy supply and affordability as well as reinforce the nation’s commitment to a cleaner environment and continued economic growth.

Controversial amendments to the energy bill with mandatory climate controls could impact the fate of the bill. Senator John McCain’s climate legislation would require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels beginning in 2010. Some believe the amendment would have serious economic impacts and reduce coal use significantly. Senator Jeff Bingaman also planned to introduce a climate amendment that would include a mandatory cap-and-trade program. The mining industry opposes both approaches claiming they would represent a tax on coal-based energy.

Senator Charles Hagel was reportedly working on a climate-related bill that focuses on technology development and use. The mining industry supports this approach, coupled with the energy efficient provisions already in the bill, claiming it would reduce emissions intensity as much, if not more, than mandatory controls, while permitting economic growth, instead of restricting it.

Virginia to Host 2005 NAAMLP Annual Conference

The 27th Annual National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) Conference will be held on September 18-21, 2005 in Bristol, Virginia. The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (VDMME) will host this year’s conference with the assistance of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC).

A pre-conference tour of abandoned mine land (AML) project sites in the Southwestern Virginia coalfields is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, September 15-16 for those who will be arriving early. The tour’s highlights will include an overnight stay at beautiful Breaks Interstate Park on Friday, and on Saturday participants will be treated to some great country music at the famous and historic Carter Fold in Hyltons, Virginia. The Carter Fold is the home of the Carter Family who are well-known pioneers of country music. Family member June Carter Cash and husband Johnny Cash were both known internationally for their successful songwriting and performance of country music. Bristol, VA/TN is known as the “Birthplace of Country Music”.

The conference will start on Sunday, September 18 with registration and a reception. A golf outing is also scheduled for Sunday beginning around 11 a.m.

Monday and Tuesday, September 19 and 20, will be occupied by technical sessions, papers, and workshops. Two field tours will be offered each day for conference participants along with spouse tours to various attractions in the area. On Wednesday, September 21, the technical sessions continue and the NAAMLP business meeting will take place.

For information and to download registration forms, visit the conference website at: www.dmme.virginia.gov/NAAMLP/default.htm, or contact Roger Williams (VDMME) at phone: 276.523.8208.

AML Reauthorization Continues to Advance -- Slowly

Efforts on Capital Hill to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land Program (AML) under Title IV of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) continue to move forward, albeit slowly. Two bills have been introduced in the House that address reauthorization: H.R. 1600 offered by Representatives Cubin (R-WY) and Rahall (D-WV) and H.R. 2721 offered by Representative Peterson (R-PA). Both bills address a plethora of key issues related to reauthorization, including extension of the date for collection of AML fees, minimum program funding, return of unappropriated state share balances, and transfer of interest from the AML Trust Fund for purposes of the United Mine Workers Combined Benefit Fund. As part of the supplemental appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2005, the date for fee collection was extended from June 30 to September 30, 2005. An effort is underway by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) to further extend fee collection authority until June 30 of 2006 as part of the Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Bill. IMCC has worked closely with the National Governors Association, the Western Governors Association and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs to further the interests of the states concerning AML reauthorization. IMCC helped to facilitate a briefing of Governors’ representative at NGA headquarters in Washington, DC on May 17. IMCC has also met with Office of Surface Mining and Congressional staff to discuss AML reauthorization issues on several occasions.

Underground Mine Mapping Benchmarking Workshop Draws Significant Interest

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) sponsored a second benchmarking workshop on underground mine mapping on June 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh at the Station Square Sheraton Hotel. Nearly 100 attendees from state and federal government agencies participated in the workshop. Among the topics addressed at the workshop were methodologies for locating and accessing mine maps; database management; geo-referencing and digitization; and data delivery. A team of 20 presenters from state and federal government agencies provided overviews on several key issues within each topic area and interactive discussion followed each presentation involving participants at the workshop. A CD including all of the presentations at the workshop, as well as a survey of state mine mapping initiatives, is available from IMCC.

OSM Sponsors Summit on Reclamation for Wildlife

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) sponsored a summit on June 23 in Louisville, Kentucky to explore opportunities, incentives and challenges associated with enhancing fish and wildlife habitat on reclaimed mine land. Over 200 representatives from state and federal government agencies, the mining industry and environmental organizations attended the summit. IMCC served as a member of the Steering Committee that developed the agenda for the meeting. Among the topics discussed at the summit were economic incentives for reclaiming to wildlife habitat as a postmining land use; wildlife reclamation opportunities and partnerships; restoration of abandoned mine lands using wildlife enhancements; and case studies related to elk restoration, the copperbelly water snake and songbirds. Several breakout sessions were held focused on wetlands and streams, revegetation, permitting, reforestation and remining. A copy of the CD with all of the presentations at the summit is available from OSM. Contact Craig Walker at cwalker@osmre.gov.

IMCC Submits Statement on OSM's Proposed FY 2006 Budget

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) filed a statement with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in March concerning the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 budget for the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). In its proposed budget, OSM requested $57.7 million to fund Title V grants to states for implementation of their regulatory programs and $205.5 million for state Title IV abandoned mine land (AML) program grants. With regard to the Title V grant amount, IMCC stated that “while OSM’s estimates will allow us to meet our most direct and critical responsibilities for conducting regulatory operations to minimize the impact of coal extraction operations on people and the environment, the gap of $7 million between the states’ estimate for their projected program operating costs ($64.1 million) and OSM’s proposed amount eliminates the cushion for inflation and uncontrollable costs and undermines our efforts to realize needed program improvements and enhancements.” IMCC went on to note that “when funding falls below program needs, programs may struggle to keep active sites free of offsite impacts, reclaim mined areas, and prevent injuries.” With regard to Title IV AML grants, IMCC commented that is was greatly heartened by that portion of the budget that proposes an increase of $58 million to support the Administration’s vision for reauthorizing the AML program. “On the other hand”, IMCC states, “OSM has proposed a decrease for the second year in a row for state and tribal AML grants. These grants are the lifeblood of state programs and represent the primary source of funding for the majority of high priority AML work that is undertaken each year.” IMCC urged Congress to restore AML grants to at least their FY 2004 level of $142 million: “We are losing ground in the battle to address high priority AML sites that threaten our citizens. It is essential that this trend be reversed immediately if we are to accomplish the goals and objectives of the AML program.”

IMCC Speaks to State Efforts Re. Mine Placement of Coal Ash

Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) Executive Director Greg Conrad addressed the topic of state regulation of mine placement of coal combustion wastes at two conferences recently. On April 14, he spoke at the World of Coal Ash meeting in Lexington, Kentucky as part of a technical interactive forum on “Regulation, Risk and Reclamation with CCBs at Mines”. On April 19, he addressed the topic of “Changes in Fly Ash Regulations for Mining and Reclamation” as part of the 26th Annual West Virginia Surface Mine Drainage Task Force Symposium in Morgantown, WV. Mr. Conrad noted that the states have had the opportunity over the past several months to once again make their case regarding effective state regulation of mine placement of coal ash, this time to the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy has appointed a Committee on Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes to undertake a study of the practice and how it is regulated. “Existing state regulatory programs under both the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act are adequate and comprehensive enough to insure the appropriate regulation of minefilling practices where coal ash is used”, Mr. Conrad stated. “In the final analysis, we believe that our citizenry and the environment will be well served by state regulatory programs that fully comply with applicable federal laws and that reflect the results of the laboratories of invention inherent in state primacy. We also believe that an effective regulatory regime for the mine placement of coal combustion wastes will insure that there are effective and safe alternatives to classic land disposal while enhancing the reclamation of both active and abandoned mined lands.” A copy of Mr. Conrad’s remarks are available from IMCC.

IMCC Comments on OSM Rules Re. Revegetation and Ownership and Control

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently filed comments on two key rules proposed by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). The first rule, published on January 26, addresses a key component of OSM’s rules on ownership and control, in particular the transfer, assignment and sale of permit rights. In its comments, IMCC noted that, while OSM has made some progress toward reaching its objective of providing greater clarity for both regulatory authorities and the regulated community on the subject, “there are several aspects of the proposed rule that beg further questions, require clarification, or perpetuate some of the confusion and frustration that have traditionally attended implementation of these elusive concepts.” IMCC suggested several adjustments to the proposed rules to improve their effectiveness and to facilitate their implementation by the states. IMCC also commented on a rule proposed by OSM on March 17 concerning topsoil replacement and revegetation success standards. IMCC fully endorsed OSM’s proposed rules and noted that they reflect “a practical approach to encouraging species diversity on reclaimed lands while providing needed flexibility to primacy states concerning new vegetative success standards and sampling techniques.” IMCC also stated that additional incentives are needed to encourage reforestation efforts. Copies of IMCC’s comments are available by calling (703) 709-8654.

States/OSM Meet to Discuss Common Challenges and Solutions

Several Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) member states from the Appalachian region of the country and their Office of Surface Mining (OSM) counterparts met on two occasions over the past several months to discuss common issues, challenges and solutions. OSM’s Appalachian Regional Coordinating Center sponsored a meeting on March 22 and 23 in Roanoke, West Virginia to discuss a variety of state/federal issues including bankruptcy and bonding concerns, inspection resources, technical assistance to the states, reforestation/revegetation, underground slurry injection, valley fill underdrains and temporary cessation. On June 16 and 17, the Appalachian Regional Technology Transfer Team met in Kingsport, Tennessee. Topics for discussion included manganese effluent limitations, clean streams, applied science projects and updates from each state. A presentation on electronic permitting was provided by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy at their offices in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.
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