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June 2008, VOL. 26, NO. 2

IMCC Holds 2008 Annual Meeting in Teton Village, Wyoming

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) held its 2008 Annual Meeting May 18 - 21 at the Teton Mountain Lodge in Teton Village (Jackson Hole), Wyoming. Attendees enjoyed warm western hospitality and spectacular views of the Grand Teton Mountains.

The meeting opened with a Welcome Reception on Sunday, May 18 in the evening. On the morning of Monday, May 19, Mayor Mark Barron of Jackson Hole, Wyoming presented welcoming remarks to IMCC attendees. Two speakers then addressed the group during the General Session: Wayne Sutherland, Gemstones, Metals and Economic Geology Specialist with the Wyoming Geological Survey presented an interesting talk on “Wyoming’s Mineral Wealth”; and Steven Potter, Director, Bureau of Research Management & Development in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation spoke on “Recent Activities of the National Association of State Land Reclamationists”. Following the General Session, the Mine Safety and Health Committee and the Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly. Later in the day, attendees enjoyed a scenic bus trip into the Grand Teton National Park and dinner at the Jackson Lake Lodge. That evening a special presentation was made to Benny Wampler, Deputy Director of the Virginia Department of Mines and Minerals in anticipation of his retirement later this year acknowledging his many years of service to the Commonwealth of Virginia and to the IMCC.

On Tuesday, May 20 the Abandoned Mine Lands Committee and Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly. That evening the Annual Awards Reception and Banquet were held. Winners of IMCC’s 2008 National Reclamation Awards and Minerals Education Awards were presented with their plaques and certificates during the banquet.

On the morning of Wednesday, May 21, a joint meeting of the Resolutions and Finance and Administrative Committees was held, followed by the Executive Commission Annual Business Meeting. The Annual Meeting concluded with the adjournment of the Annual Business Meeting.

For further information about the IMCC Annual Meeting, contact Beth Botsis, Director of Programs, IMCC at 703/709-8654, fax 703/709-8655, or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us. Future IMCC meeting information can be viewed on our website: www.imcc.isa.us (Click on the “Conference Info” link).

IMCC Mid-Year Meeting Scheduled for St. Louis, Missouri

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) will hold its 2008 Mid-Year Meeting at the Crowne Plaza Downtown Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri from November 18 - 19.

On the morning of Tuesday, November 18, a joint meeting of the Noncoal Environment Affairs and the Mine Safety and Health Committees will be held. The Coal Environmental Affairs and Abandoned Mine Lands Committees will meet immediately following. A luncheon will also be held on Tuesday.

The Resolutions and Finance and Administrative Committees will meet jointly on the morning of Wednesday, November 19, followed by the Executive Commission Mid-Year Business Meeting.

More information on the meeting and a registration form will be included in the next issue of the “Compact” newsletter. Information about the meeting can also be found on IMCC’s website: www.imcc.isa.us, click on the “Conference Info” link..

Contact: Beth A. Botsis, Director of Programs at Ph: 703.709.8654 or E-Mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

EIA Data Shows West Virginia Top in Coal Exports

Recently released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates that West Virginia continues to be the leading coal exporting state in the nation. In a 2006 data report, nearly 35 percent of total U.S. coal exports originated in West Virginia (16,327 tons out of a total 46,746 tons exported). Following in number of tons exported were Virginia (6,185 tons), Pennsylvania (6,162 tons), Alabama (6,024 tons), Wyoming (5,622 tons), Kentucky (3,712 tons), Colorado (799 tons), Montana (447 tons), Alaska (433 tons), Maryland (412 tons), Illinois (240 tons), and “other” (383 tons).

MSHA Issues Final Rule on Seals in Underground Coal Mines

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently published a final rule intended to increase protections for miners who work in underground coal mines with sealed-off abandoned areas. The final rule, which replaces the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that went into effect in May 2007, increases the pounds per square inch (psi) pressure that seals must be able to withstand in the event of an explosion and adds other safeguards intended to protect miners.

“This final rule goes beyond the requirements Congress set forth in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response, or MINER, Act, which necessitates that mine seals be stronger than the 20 psi explosive pressure minimum established in 1992,” said Richard E. Sticker, Acting Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health. “Under the new rule, operators must strengthen the design, construction, maintenance and repair of seals, as well as sample and control atmospheres behind certain seals. Seal strength must be designed to at least 50 psi.”

The final rule also has a number of other protections intended to improve miner safety including:
  • Air sampling behind seals that are less than 120 psi and withdrawal of miners when a dangerous condition is discovered.
  • Removal of potential ignition sources from sealed areas.
  • The same three-tiered approach as in the ETS, which requires additional seal strength where sealed atmospheres are more dangerous.
  • A certified supervisor for construction and repair of seals with senior management of the mine operator required to certify seal compliance with the MSHA-approved ventilation plan.
  • Increased training for those involved in seal sampling and construction.
  • Requirements for design certification of seals.
  • Enhanced recordkeeping to ensure compliance.

As in a previously proposed MSHA seals rule, the final rule maintains the distinction between seals of at least 50 psi overpressure that are monitored and maintained inert, and those of at least 120 psi overpressure that are not monitored. Unlike the proposed rule, the final rule imposes more stringent requirements on seal design and monitoring and includes specific provisions related to seals constructed to separate an active longwall panel from a previously mined panel. The final rule also requires the installation of a sampling pipe in each new seal constructed and requires that each sampling pipe and approved sampling location be sampled at least every 24 hours, unless an alternative is approved by a MSHA district manager. The rule also allows operators to seek alternative methods to determine the composition of the environment behind a seal where a demonstrated history of carbon dioxide exists.

Seal manufacturers and mine operators were given six months from issuance of the rule in April 2008 to submit revised seal applications and ventilation plans, respectively, to comply with the final rule. Otherwise, because the final rule replaced the seals ETS from May 2007, it was made immediately effective.

More information about the rule and a link to a copy of the final rule are available online at: http://www.msha.gov/seals/sealssinglesource2007.asp.

OSM Director Praises Kentucky Mine Mapping System

Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Director Brent Wahlquist recently praised the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Mine Mapping Information System for winning the Best of Kentucky Technology Award for Best Online Service.

“It is truly impressive how this dedicated team combined cutting edge technology with know-how and vision to create a best-of-the-best solution in an area vital to public safety,” Wahlquist said in an April 25 press release. “Providing easily accessible information concerning underground mines improves public safety, protects the environment and improves economic development....OSM has long recognized that the Kentucky Mine Mapping Information System was a premier site.”

The system plays a pivotal public safety role by providing an electronic database that houses maps of hundreds of abandoned and active underground mines in the state. The system helps identify areas where mines could subside, causing the ground to sink into mined out areas below the surface, and also helps ensure that modern mines and their structures do not run too close to forgotten mines or those for which existing maps are incomplete or inaccurate.

OSM works with Kentucky and other states building such repositories by providing technology transfer, funding grants and technical expertise as needed. OSM’s National Mine Map Repository provides a national index of all mine map repositories as well as providing critical backup capabilities for state efforts.

“This is a wonderful example of the beauty of the Surface Mining Act’s vision of ‘primacy’ – we provide some seed money and technical support, but it is the vision and expertise of local officials and citizenry that builds a system that meets the needs of the local community,” said Wahlquist.

More information on the Kentucky Mine Mapping Information System is available at http://minemaps.ky.gov/.

OSM Proposes Remining Incentive Rule

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently published a proposed rule on remining incentives that was issued in response to amendments to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) which Congress approved in 2006. Those amendments authorized, but do not require, OSM to provide additional regulatory incentives to encourage mining companies to initiate remining operations. Public comments on the proposed rule were being accepted by OSM until June 30.

Among its remining incentives, the proposed rule authorizes a waiver of applicable abandoned mine land reclamation fees and allows a full waiver of those fees, instead of only a partial waiver, as was considered in earlier versions of the proposed rule. Under the proposed rule, the agency will allow states to use up-front fee waivers, rather than offering fee rebates, which would have required operators to pay the fees and then apply to the government for a refund.

Finally, OSM’s proposed rule does not subject such waivers to approval by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, but instead allows the state regulatory authorities to approve waivers on a case-by-case basis. In order to qualify for a waiver, a state regulatory authority must find that the expected benefits from remining would yield greater reclamation of the eligible land than would result from the expenditure of the same amount from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund and that eligible lands would not likely be reclaimed were it not for the AML fee waiver.

A number of additional conditions not mandated by the 2006 SMCRA amendments are also included in the proposed rule. Among these conditions is a requirement that the waiver is avialable only if a remining operation removes all of the abandoned coal refuse at a site. The proposed rule also dictates that the fee waiver applies only to operations that remove coal refuse and use it or process it off-site.

Although the 2006 SMCRA amendments specifically authorized OSM to allow the use of AML funds to cover the cost of reclamation bonds on remining sites, the agency decided not to include this incentive in the proposed regulation.

A copy of the proposed rule is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2008/May/Day-01/i9564.htm

EPA Proposes to Amend Clean Air Act Standards for Coal and Mineral Processing Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced its intention to amend the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) new source performance standards for coal preparation and nonmetallic mineral processing plants. In an April 28 Federal Register notice, EPA issued the proposed rule for coal preparation plants constructed, reconstructed or modified after April 28, 2008. EPA’s public comment period on the rule ended on June 12, 2008.

The new source performance standards apply to certain facilities located at coal preparation plants that process more than 200 tons of coal annually. The standards apply to thermal dryers, pneumatic coal-cleaning equipment (air tables), coal processing and conveying equipment (breakers and crushers), coal storage systems and transfer and loading systems. The proposed rule will reduce the particulate matter emission limits and capacity limits, among other changes, and revise various monitoring and testing requirements and methods. The proposal also contains several definitions and explanations related to applicability and exceptions to the standards.

In late April, EPA also proposed amending the CAA standards of performance for nonmetallic mineral processing plants. The proposed amendments would reduce the particulate matter emission limits for such plants, reduce the fugitive visible emission limits for crushers and grinding mills and revise various monitoring and testing requirements and methods.

A copy of the coal processing plant proposed rule is available at: http://www.mwcog.org/uploads/committee-documents/mV5eXV9d20080523140120.pdf (Page 22901).

A copy of the nonmetallic mineral plant processing proposed rule is available at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-8677.pdf.

Wyoming AML Program to Receive $51.2 Million

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) announced in a May 7 press release that it will distribute an additional $51.2 million to fund Wyoming’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program for fiscal year (FY) 2008. OSM said projects supported by these funds were determined by the Wyoming State Legislature to be in keeping with the requirements of the 2006 amendments to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

The 2006 SMCRA amendments provide that, in addition to funds allocated to eligible states and tribes based on AML fee collections from FY 2007 coal production, each state and tribe will be paid the equivalent of one-seventh of its unappropriated state or tribal share balance from funds at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Senate Legislation Introduced to Spur Domestic Coal-to-Liquid Transportation Fuels Production

The “American Energy Production Act of 2008" (S. 2958) was introduced on May 1, 2008 by ranking Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Member Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The legislation is intended to dramatically increase the production of domestic energy resources, including the production of coal-to-liquid (CTL) transportation fuels. The bill is designed to produce enough new domestic fuel to meet the nation’s fuel needs for five years without imports.

The bill’s CTL provisions call for the creation of a 6 billion gallon annual mandate of CTL fuels by 2022. The mandate would begin in 2015 with 750 million gallons required annually and would grow each year until reaching the 6 billion gallon target. The bill requires that CTL fuels produced to meet the mandate have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions not greater than those associated with gasoline.

The legislation would also grant the Department of Defense the ability to negotiate long-term synthetic fuel supply contracts lasting upwards of 25 years. Contracting authority of this type has long been seen as necessary to help CTL developers secure the financing from Wall Street needed to begin construction of the first fleet of domestic CTL plants.

Additionally, the bill would repeal section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which prohibits government agencies from procuring alternative fuels with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions greater than those associated with the conventional fuels they replace.

“We must face the fact that no matter what we do, America will still need oil, and without action, an increasingly large portion of that oil will come from unstable regions,” said Domenici in a May 1 press release. “With gas prices soaring higher and higher, we must produce more at home, and this bill allows us to do that in an environmentally responsible manner,” Domenici said.

Shortly after introducing the legislation, Domenici and 13 Republican Senators called on the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to analyze the impact of S. 2958.

“We are deeply concerned that rising energy prices threaten the well-being of all Americans, and we believe that more of our energy supplies should be produced at home,” Domenici and his colleagues said in a May 2 letter to EIA. “An analysis by the EIA of the ‘Domestic Energy Production Act of 2008' would prove useful to members of Congress as we seek to craft measures that could lower the cost of energy and increase our energy security.”

New Congressional Mining Caucus Formed

A bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives recently launched the Congressional Mining Caucus in an effort to advocate sound and responsible mineral policies and to educate members of Congress on the important role that mining and mineral processing play in ensuring America’s economic prosperity and national security. The caucus currently has 45 members and is co-chaired by Representatives Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Bill Sali (R-Idaho), Tim Holden (D-Pennsylvania) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia). On June 10, the caucus conducted its inaugural briefing to provide caucus members with information about the important economic and security roles played by mining in the United States. The briefing included presentations on the role of coal, industrial minerals, metals and aggregates.

House Members Make CTL Legislative Attempts

As fuel prices nationwide continue to hover at or above record prices, a series of bills designed to accelerate the domestic production and use of coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuels have recently been introduced in the House of Representatives as part of an effort to control energy costs and promote U.S. energy independence.

Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) recently introduced the “Clean Coal-Derived Fuels for Energy Security Act” (H.R. 6170), which mandates the production of 6 billion gallons of CTL fuels by 2022. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) joined Capito as an original co-sponsor of the bill. Fuel produced to meet the mandate would be used for aviation fuel, motor vehicle fuel, home heating oil and boiler fuel.

“It’s time for an all-hands-on-deck policy and coal must play a part in our energy solutions, “ Capito said. She stressed that America’s “coal reserves are larger than the combined oil reserves of the rest of the world,” saying “it’s time to get serious about coal-to-liquids.” Capito emphasized that CTL fuels “can be clean, can be produced domestically, will create American jobs, are economically viable and is the right thing for West Virginia.”

Representative John Sullivan (R-OK) recently introduced H.R. 6131, which creates a new excise tax credit of 50 cents per gallon for the use of alternative aviation fuels and blends, such as CTL fuels. The bill also authorizes the Department of Defense to sign contracts for up to 25 years for fuels derived from coal, oil shale, or tar sands. The long-term contracting authority contained in the bill is meant to help private sector companies secure the necessary financing from Wall Street to construct the first fleet of domestic CTL plants and jumpstart American alternative fuel production. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX) is one of 23 co-sponsors of the bill.

In addition, Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) recently unveiled new legislation, H.R. 6161, that aims to accelerate the use of CTL fuels in the aviation sector. Specifically, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies to establish programs to develop jet fuel made from coal and other domestic feed stocks. The bill also grants the Department of Defense and other agencies the authority to sign long-term CTL contracts with fuel manufacturers. The bill requires that such contracts be competitively bid; have prices that are market competitive; last no longer than 25 years; and use fuel with life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the fuels that are replaced. The bill also directs the Federal Aviation Administration to designate a university as a “Center for Excellence for Coal-to-Liquid Fuels”.

Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Clean Water Ballot Initiative

The Alaska Supreme Court recently dismissed a clean water ballot initiative aimed at blocking new copper and gold developments in the state. The court has also scheduled oral arguments in a challenge against another initiative that could halt most mining activity, threatening the 3,000 mining-related jobs in Alaska. The court’s June 9 decision upheld a ruling made last year by Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell that the copper and gold initiative was unconstitutional.

The initiative was one of two filed by environmental groups that members of Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown (AAMS), a coalition of mining community supporters and Native American organizations, challenged in court. The second initiative, which prohibits the storage or disposal of metallic mineral mining wastes and tailings, was the subject of oral arguments before the court on June 16. Pending the court’s ruling, the initiative will appear on the statewide election ballot in August.

Previously, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Director of Mining, Land and Water Richard Mylius warned that if “land and water may not be used to store or dispose of wastes and tailings that generate chemicals, mining will be impossible.”

House Committee Explores Federal Regulations for Coal Combustion Products

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on June 10 focused on how the federal government could address health and environmental issues linked to coal combustion products (CCP). With one exception, all of the witnesses at the hearing advocated for federal regulation of CCPs. The witnesses included Mark Squillace from the University of Colorado; Chuck Norris of GeoHydro, Inc.; Dr. Thomas Burke, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Lisa Evans of Earthjustice; and Norman Harvey, a community activist from Maryland. Shari Wilson, the Maryland Secretary of the Environment testified regarding a recent case in Maryland, involving utility placement of CCPs in a sand and gravel pit that resulted in the contamination of nearby drinking wells. She discussed newly proposed state regulations as a result of the incident.

The sole witness arguing against federal regulation was David Goss of the American Coal Ash Association. Goss concluded that current federal and state regulations sufficiently protect the environment and public health, saying that additional federal legislative and regulatory schemes are not warranted.

Neither the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nor the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) testified at the hearing, despite Congress having commissioned a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on CCP placement in coal mines. The NAS study found that using CCPs in coal mines as part of reclamation activities is a viable management option, so long as it is properly planned and avoids significant environmental and health impacts and that the regulatory process provides for public involvement. NAS also recommended that OSM, in consultation with EPA, take the lead role in issuing national regulations governing CCP placement in coal mines. Pursuant to the NAS recommendations, OSM is expected to issue a proposed rule on CCP placement in coal mines in the near future.

Upcoming IMCC Meetings
  • IMCC 2008 Mid-Year Meeting – St. Louis, Missouri
    November 18 - 19, 2008
    Crowne Plaza Downtown St. Louis Hotel

  • IMCC 2009 Annual Meeting – Anchorage, Alaska
    April 26 - 29, 2009
    The Hotel Captain Cook
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