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June 2007, VOL. 25, NO. 2

IMCC Holds 2007 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) held its 2007 Annual Meeting on April 29 - May 2 in downtown Indianapolis. There were approximately 55 people in attendance.

On Sunday evening, April 29, a reception kicked off the meeting. The General Session opened on Monday morning with a welcome message given by Brandon Seitz, Manager, Energy Division of the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense Development. Speakers who followed included Mark Stacy of the Indiana Division of Reclamation’s Abandoned Mine Land Program, Linda Taylor with Vincennes University, and Jim O’Neil of Headwaters Energy Services. They spoke on the following topics respectively: “Innovative Reclamation Techniques at Pre-law AML Coal Sites”, “Vincennes University Mining Technology Program”, and “Adding Value to Energy.”

The Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly with the Mine Safety and Health Committee following the conclusion of the General Session. Attendees enjoyed a family style dinner at Buca di Beppo on Monday evening.

The Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly with the Abandoned Mine Lands Committee on Tuesday. In the evening several award winners were present for the annual awards reception and banquet. IMCC’s Annual National Reclamation Awards and Annual Minerals Education Awards were presented during the banquet.

On Wednesday, May 2, the Resolutions and Finance and Administrative Committees met. The Executive Commission Business Meeting followed and concluded the Annual Meeting.

IMCC Hosts Subsidence Roundtable Discussions in Pittsburgh

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) hosted a benchmarking roundtable discussion on “The Regulation of Subsidence Impacts from Mining” on May 15 and 16 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel. State regulatory personnel discussed specific, in-the-field case studies of both successful and problematic experiences related to the regulation of subsidence impacts. Among the topics discussed were impacts of subsidence on structures, water supplies, public roads, utilities, railways, pipelines and historic properties, bonding for subsidence and stream subsidence. Several states provided overviews of their state regulatory program requirements related to subsidence. The workshop followed on the heels of an IMCC report released in November of 2006 which summarized the results of a survey of the states regarding subsidence regulation. That document provided insights into the approaches that various states are taking to implement state and federal rules related to subsidence impacts from mining, particularly with regard to high extraction and longwall mining.

IMCC/NAAMLP Comments on OSM Draft AML Rules

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) jointly submitted comments to the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) regarding draft rules (proposed and interim final) to implement the provision of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) Amendments of 2006 (P.L. 109-432). IMCC and NAAMLP met in Indianapolis on May 2-3, 2007 to review and discuss the draft rules and develop comments.

Several key sections of the draft rules are addressed in the comments, many of which grow out of OSM’s “Major Policy Issues” paper which was shared with the states in April.

The IMCC/NAAMLP comments address the use of the grant mechanism to distribute payments from the U.S. Treasury, funding for minimum program states, the use of unappropriated state share balances for noncoal reclamation and acid mind drainage set-aside, the effective date of certain payments, adjustments to the grants process, annual distribution charts, and training. IMCC and NAAMLP also encouraged OSM to use the mechanism of the preamble language to clarify certain aspects of the proposed and interim final rules.

IMCC Comments on ANPR Re: Coal Combustion By-Products

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently submitted comments regarding an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) published by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) on March 14, 2007 at 72 Fed. Reg. 12026 addressing mine placement of coal combustion residues (CCRs).

OSM’s notice responds to several recommendations contained in a report published by the National Research Council (NRC) within the National Academy of Sciences entitled “Managing Coal Combustion Residues at Mines.” The NRC conducted the study to examine the health, safety and environmental risks associated with using coal combustion residues (also referred to as coal combustion wastes or coal ash) in reclamation at active and abandoned coal mines. The NRC looked at the placement of CCRs in abandoned and active surface and underground coal mines in all major coal basins. The study was to determine whether CCRs were placed and disposed of in coal mines with adequate safeguards and whether this activity is degrading water supplies in coal mines in contravention of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

IMCC participated extensively throughout the course of the NRC’s deliberations, including the submission of extensive comments. In its ANPR, OSM was seeking comments on how the NRC recommendations should be implemented, including how the agency should revise its regulations to regulate the placement of CFRs on active and abandoned coal mine sites.

IMCC’s comments reiterated several concerns the states articulated during the federal/state discussions that occurred over the past several years. Several of these concerns were addressed in the NRC report, including the following:
  • SMCRA appears to serve as an adequate and effective baseline for any type of regulatory analysis concerning mine placement of CCRs. In this regard, the states see the SMCRA permit serving as the platform for CCR mine placement at coal mines. For non-coal mines, the states believe that the existing state permitting framework, which is often RCRA-based, is adequate.
  • It is essential to examine the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of existing state programs before adding additional regulatory requirements.
  • There is an absolute need for flexibility to accommodate differences among the states related to geology, climate, ash characterization and agency operation. Comprehensive federal regulation will be difficult to implement on a nationwide basis due to these differences.
  • There needs to be consideration given to both coal and noncoal sites and the differences between them. In this regard, heavy-handed federal efforts to achieve some sort of uniformity will only undermine effective and efficient regulation at the state level.
As OSM moves forward with the development of regulations, IMCC urged the agency to be mindful of and to formally address issues and concerns related to: CCR characterization; site characterization; management, design and monitoring; performance measures; public participation; and reporting.

Several other issues and perspectives were also raised, including the following:
  • The western states emphasized the importance of site-specific flexibility that will allow states to account for unique differences based on climate, geology, etc.
  • OSM and EPA should be aware that in some states there are separate regulatory authorities that deal with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) aspects of mine placement of CCRs and that SMCRA rules and permitting requirements may need to be coordinated with these agencies.
  • From a noncoal state’s perspective, it was noted that flexibility will be important, especially with regard to mine placement at industrial mineral or metal/non-metal mines. It was suggested that the rules for disposal at land fills and surface impoundments be coordinated with those for minefilling to be sure that there are no serious conflicts.


IMCC Adopts Resolution Re. Funding of Title V State Programs

On May 2, 2007 the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) adopted a resolution urging Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to support full funding for state grants under Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) so that states can effectively meet the objectives and mandates of SMCRA. IMCC also requested that funding for state regulatory grants in OSM’s proposed FY 2008 budget be increased by $7 million for a total of $67 million.

The resolution points out that in recent years federal funding for state regulatory grants has stagnated, resulting in a $10 million gap between states’ estimated program costs and actual grant funding. This debilitating funding trend is severely impacting the states’ ability to run efficient and effective regulatory programs that meet the purposes and objectives of SMCRA, with some states having to overmatch federal grants dollars and other states being forced to seriously consider turning all or portions of their programs back to the federal government. The costs for the federal government to operate regulatory programs in primacy states will, by OSM’s own admission, be significantly higher than what the states currently spend. There is strong and widespread support for increases in state regulatory grants from both the regulated industry and citizen groups so as to preserve the quality and integrity of state programs.

WV Court Decision Impacts Corps' Permitting System

On June 13, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) does not have the authority under the Clean Water Act to issue permits for discharges from coal mining operations to certain stream segments used by industry to meet water quality standards. The decision has led to a virtual halt in the issuance of Section 404 permits within the southern district of West Virginia.

Specifically, the court struck down a Corps and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permitting program that allowed the use of certain stream segments, along with sediment ponds, as a part of the industry’s treatment technology used to meet water quality standards.

The court rejected this long-standing joint regulatory approach, finding that the discharge of sediment into certain intervening stream segments is unlawful under the CWA without a Section 402 permit, and as a result struck down the Corps’ permitting system.
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