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June 2006, VOL. 24, NO. 2

IMCC 2006 Annual Meeting Held in Bismarck, North Dakota

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) 2006 Annual Meeting was held April 30 - May 3, 2006 in Bismarck, North Dakota at the Radisson Hotel Bismarck from April 30 through May 3. A Bonding Roundtable session followed the Annual Meeting.

Attendees gathered for a welcoming reception on the night of Sunday, April 30. Tony Clark, President of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, presented opening remarks on the morning of Monday, May 1. A general session followed featuring two interesting speakers: Ed Murphy, North Dakota State Geologist, who spoke on “Geology Along the Lewis and Clark Trail in North Dakota”; and Al Christianson of Great River Energy, who spoke on “Beneficial Uses of Fly Ash from the Coal Creek Station”. In the late morning, IMCC committees met. That afternoon the group toured the Great Plains Coal Gasification Plant. In the evening attendees enjoyed a social time which included a tour of historic Fort Lincoln and a traditional Mandan Barbeque.

On Tuesday, May 2, IMCC committees met throughout the day. The Annual Awards Banquet was held in the evening at which time the Annual Kenes C. Bowling National Mine Reclamation Awards and the National Minerals Education Awards were presented. The Finance and Administrative Committee Meeting and the Annual Executive Commission Business Meeting concluded the Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 2. That afternoon a Bonding Roundtable Discussion ensued (see related article).

The next IMCC Annual Meeting will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Embassy Suites Hotel from April 29-May 2, 2007. Visit the IMCC website (www.imcc.isa.us) for more information on this and other upcoming IMCC conferences and meetings.

IMCC 2006 Mid-Year Meeting is Scheduled for Lake Placid, New York

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) 2006 Mid-Year Meeting will take place in Lake Placid, New York on October 4-5 at the Lake Placid Crowne Plaza Resort.

The meeting will begin with a casual reception on the evening of Tuesday, October 3. IMCC committees will meet throughout the day on Wednesday, October 4, breaking for a luncheon with a guest speaker. A boat ride to an evening reception at Camp Majano will end the day. The Executive Commission Business Meeting will conclude the Mid-Year Meeting on Thursday, October 5.

Information about the Mid-Year Meeting, and other upcoming IMCC meetings, can be found on our website at www.imcc.isa.us, or contact Beth Botsis at 703.709.8654. A downloadable registration form which includes hotel registration information is also available on the IMCC website. Click on the "Conferences" link from the home page.

IMCC Sponsors Bonding Roundtable Discussion

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently held a Roundtable Discussion Concerning Financial Assurance for Mining Reclamation Obligations on May 3-4, 2006 in Bismarck, North Dakota. Approximately 53 attendees took part in the discussion, including representatives from IMCC member states, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), the U.S. Forest Service, the mining industry, and the surety industry.

The discussions opened with an overview by the surety industry representatives on the health, performance and recent results of the surety and reclamation bonding markets. Attendees also heard from state and federal government representatives about recent developments in the area of financial assurance including the use of trust funds, corporate guarantees and bond pools. Attendees also discussed such topics as risk assessment and management, financial and operational strength evaluations, and increased use of different forms of collateral. On May 4, the IMCC member states met to further discuss bonding issues and concerns from the states’ perspectives.

New OSM Director is Nominated by President Bush

President Bush recently nominated John Correll as the next Director of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). Correll recently served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for operations at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Prior to that, Correll was the Director of Safety and Workers’ Compensation for Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. and the Director of Safety, Health and Workers’ compensation for AMAX Coal Industries. Correll is certified as a Mine Safety Professional by the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals and is a World Safety Organization Certified Safety Executive. He is also certified as a professional miner with the Holmes Safety Association.

In a May 16 press release, Acting Department of the Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett described Correll as possessing “not only significant organizational and operations management experience, but also a substantive record focused on safety and health in both the public and private sectors.”

Since former OSM Director Jeffrey Jarrett was confirmed and sworn in on January 3, 2006 as Assistant Secretary for fossil energy at the Department of Energy, Brent Wahlquist as been serving as Acting Director. Mr. Wahlquist will remain in that capacity until the Senate confirms John Correll as the new Director.

MINER Act Approved by Senate and House

On May 24, 2006, the Senate unanimously approved the “Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006.” The bill is intended to strengthen underground coal mine safety. The bill had the backing of the United Mine Workers of American (UMWA) and the mining industry as well as bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. In a May 24 press release responding to the Senate’s passing of the bill, UMWA’s President Cecil Roberts said the bill “is a step in the right direction” and urged the House “to pass it as soon as possible and President Bush to sign it into law without delay”.The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation on June 7, clearing the way for the President’s signature.

The MINER ACT includes requirements for the use of new and improved communications and tracking equipment, enhanced mine rescue capabilities, and increased supplies of breathable air. The bill also contains provisions which provide legal indemnification for rescue teams and authorizes stronger federal funding for mine safety research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Kempthorne Confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Interior

Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne was recently confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Kempthorne officially took office as the new secretary on May 31. Prior to becoming Idaho’s Governor, Kempthorne served as a U.S. Senator and as Mayor of Boise, Idaho. President Bush nominated Kempthorne to replace Gale Norton on March 16. Among issues Kempthorne has targeted as priority action items are the revision of the Endangered Species Act, development of alternative energy sources, and water conservation.

U.S. District Court Rejects Challenge to OSM's VER Rule

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision on May 4 rejecting a challenge by the coal industry against the Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) rule interpreting when rules prohibiting surface coal mining operations near certain designated areas are inapplicable due to “valid existing rights” (VER). The VER rule defines the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act’s (SMCRA) exceptions to coal mining restrictions. The National Mining Association claimed that OSM’s VER rule was too narrowly defined. The district court decision said SMCRA does not define VER and as such, OSM should be given latitude in how it interprets SMCRA in crafting a VER rule. The court also said that Congress sanctioned the use of the good faith permits test in the Energy Policy Act of 1992, and that OSM’s narrow VER rule is reasonable because it would not disrupt existing state programs, many of which continue to use OSM’s definition.

SMCRA prohibits surface coal mining and surface activities associated with surface or underground coal mining within certain designated areas of public land that are close to certain public and historic sites. These prohibitions do not apply if a coal mining operation has been in existence since August 3, 1977, the date SMCRA was enacted, or if the operator had VER when the law was enacted. OSM’s VER rule prohibits coal owners from making use of the VER exemptions unless they had both the property rights and authority to mine as of August 3, 1977, and had already made a “good faith” attempt prior to that date to obtain all necessary mining permits.

IMCC Sponsors Workshop on AML Partnering

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently sponsored a workshop entitled “Partnering for Success in Abandoned Mine Land Programs” that focused on opportunities to enhance funding and/or support for state and tribal abandoned mine land (AML) programs under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. The workshop, which was co-sponsored by the Office of Surface Mining, was attended by 35 representatives from state, tribal and federal agencies involved with AML reclamation. Among the topics discussed were motivation factors in partnerships, how to broaden constituencies, targeting agency and institutional partners, developing a vision for partnering, and operational concerns. During the workshop, participants were encouraged to develop partnership plans and to begin implementation of those plans. Small group strategy sessions were held to allow attendees to work through issues and concerns and to share ideas. The workshop was facilitated by Nina McCormick of the Center for Rural Strategies and key presenters included Chris Ross with the Bureau of Land Management and Mark Killar with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Court Upholds EPA Rules on Remining

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently issued an 8-5 decision upholding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules at 40 CFR Part 434 that added new subcategories for remining and western alkaline coal mining to the agency’s effluent limitation guidelines. The rules provide more appropriate and effective requirements for discharges at remining operations and western alkaline coal mines by allowing the use of best management practices in lieu of numeric effluent limitations. The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) had worked with EPA to help develop the supporting background materials for the rule based on the states’ experience in attempting to issue permits for remining operations. IMCC filed an amicus curiae brief with the Sixth Circuit, prepared by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supporting the rule and urging that it be upheld.

IMCC Addresses Summit of the States on Interstate Compacts

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) Executive Director Greg Conrad recently participated in a panel discussion on Governance Models for Interstate Compacts during the Summit of the States on Interstate Compacts sponsored by the Council of State Governments in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Conrad discussed the unique role played by advisory compacts like the IMCC in advancing the positions and perspectives of the states in their relations with the federal government, particularly with regard to national environmental laws. He also presented an overview of IMCC’s governance structure and the challenges faced by compacts in today’s political and fiscal environment. (See link for the June 2006 "Compact Forum".)
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