November/December 2009, VOL. 27, NO. 3
IMCC Sponsors E-Permitting Benchmarking Workshop
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) sponsored a benchmarking workshop on “E-Permitting and Mobile Computing” at the Hyatt Regency, Chicago, Illinois, October 28 - 29.
Workshop registrants included 56 representatives from the states and federal government.
A general session was held on Wednesday, October 28 with presentations on the following topics: “Overview of State and Federal E-Permitting Systems” and “Mobile Computing – Technologies and Field Applications”. Presenters included David Sanders of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Deborah Martin of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, David O’Hara of the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources, and Daniel Lewis of the Office of Surface Mining’s Knoxville Field Office. A presentation on “Information and Data Storage and Retrieval System in Alabama” was provided by Randy Johnson of the Alabama Surface Mining Commission. Tracy Goff of Summit Engineering provided “An Industry Perspective on E-Permitting” during the luncheon October 28th.
On Thursday, October 29, concurrent breakout sessions were held in the morning and repeated in the afternoon which provided detailed descriptions of the four state/federal e-permitting systems, as follows: Session I – the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s program presented by David Sanders; Session II – presentation on the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s program by Amy Halstead; Session III – Presentation on the Kentucky Department for Surface Mining’s program by David O’Hara; and Session IV – the Office of Surface Mining Program presented by Daniel Lewis and Nancy Osborne. CD’s containing the workshop presentations are available from IMCC.
IMCC Sponsors Summit of the States on the Regulation of Noncoal Minerals
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) sponsored a “Summit of the States on the Regulation of Noncoal Minerals” at The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado on November 17, 2009. Participants from 22 states and tribes attended the event.
The summit was structured as a brainstorming session among the attendees about how to succeed in an environment where fiscal constraints are severe and where pressure is growing from various constituencies (environmental and citizen groups, local government agencies, industry, and legislators (state and federal)) to perform more effectively in terms of environmental protection and public health and safety.
The Summit began with an overview of noncoal mineral production in the U.S. by Scott Sibley of the U.S. Geological Survey. Topics for discussion included: “Overview of Noncoal Mineral Regulatory Programs”; “Implementing Effective Regulatory Programs at the State Level”; “Building Support for State Programs – Mandates, Motivation and Money”; “Interacting with Interested and Affected Constituencies”; “Technical Issues Associated with State Noncoal Minerals Regulatory Programs – Blasting, Water Quality and Quantity, Reclamation Standards, Wetlands Protection, Tailings from Mines and Preparation Facilities, Historic and Cultural Resource Issues, and Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes”.
On November 18, other regulatory program issues were discussed, including: “Financial Assurance – Bond Availability; Bond Calculation; Forfeitures; and Standards for Release”; “Restoration of Inactive and Abandoned Mine Lands – What’s Working and What’s Not?”; and “The Need for a National Minerals Policy”.
IMCC Holds 2009 Mid-Year Meeting in Denver, Colorado
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) 2009 Mid-Year Meeting was held on November 18 - 19 at The Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado following the conclusion of the IMCC-sponsored Noncoal Summit. On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 18 a joint meeting of the Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs and Mine Safety and Health Committees was held. Immediately following, the Finance and Administrative and Resolutions Committees met jointly.
On Thursday, November 19, a joint meeting of the Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs and Abandoned Mine Land Committees took place. In the afternoon the Executive Commission Business Meeting concluded the Mid-Year Meeting.
Senate Confirms Joseph Pizarchik as Director of Office of Surface Mining
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently praised the Senate’s confirmation of Joseph Pizarchik as Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Pizarchik previously was director of the Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Mining and Reclamation in the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“Joe Pizarchik is a dedicated public servant whose experience in coal production will be invaluable as director of Office of Surface Mining,” Secretary Salazar said. “I welcome his energy and insight on our policy team to balance the nation’s need for continued domestic coal production with protection of the environment,” Salazar said.
Pizarchik joined the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in 1991. Before becoming its director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation in 2002, he served as assistant director of the Bureau of Regulatory Counsel. Pizarchik was one of the authors of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act and provided counsel during the development and implementation of the Good Samaritan program, which he oversaw.
In addition to working on various mining related statutory and regulatory amendments, Pizarchik helped develop Pennsylvania’s program for volunteers to clean up abandoned coal refuse sites and helped develop the state’s program for mine operators to establish trust funds as a means of meeting their financial obligations. This ensures funds are available to perpetually treat the discharges caused by mining. Pizarchik also has worked closely with the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security promulgating regulations for security at explosive storage magazines to prevent unauthorized access to the sites.
Prior to joining the Department of Environmental Protection, Pizarchik served as counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation dealing with contracts, mass transit, aviation, contractor qualifications, and minority business enterprises. He also formerly worked in private practice and for an insurance company.
EPA to Draft EIS on Mountaintop Mining and Valley-Fill
In late September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will draft an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) assessing the ecological impacts associated with mountaintop mining and valley-fill mining at the request of EPA’s Region 3 office. The Science Advisory Board will be assisting EPA in developing a panel of experts.
EPA Releases Report on Coal Ash Impoundments
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a report on the structural integrity of seventeen coal ash impoundment facilities. None of the facilities were rated “unsatisfactory”. All of the facilities examined were classified as having a serious hazard potential in the event of a failure. The inspections were part of EPA’s intention to regulate coal ash following an impoundment failure and spill at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Power Plant in December of 2008.
Earlier this summer, Senators from 25 coal states wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding their concerns about promised agency regulation of coal ash. The bipartisan letter asked the administrator to carefully consider state experience, the value-added market for coal ash byproducts and the impact of any regulation on utility costs. The senators urged that coal ash be regulated as a non-hazardous waste to balance environmental and economic considerations.
EPA Coal Mining Permit Moratorium Extended
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on September 11 that it would continue to withhold approval of all 79 coal mining permits selected by the agency for re-review as part of a June 11, 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. EPA’s re-review of all pending coal mining permits in Appalachia was first announced on March 24, 2009. Section 404 permits in four states are being withheld: 23 in West Virginia, 49 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 1 in Tennessee. The hold also opens a 14-day public review period prior to publication of a final list of permits that will be required to undergo an additional 60-day EPA-led review using the agency’s Enhanced Review Procedures.
Army Corps Reactivates Alaska Gold Mine Permit
On August 17 the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would reactivate a Section 404 Clean Water Act Permit for the Coeur d’Alene Kensington Gold Mine, located 40 miles northwest of Juneau, Alaska. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the company had a valid 404 permit to dispose of tailings from the Kensington Mine into Lower Slate Lake. Despite the court’s ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had pursued efforts to slow down permitting activity, insisting that the Corps re-evaluate the mine’s tailings disposal plan. Following the announcement, the company said it plans to immediately begin to finalize construction of the remaining areas of the operation, which is approximately 90 percent complete.
District Court Ruling Re. Stream Buffer Zone Rule; OSM Publishes ANPR and New Protective Guidelines
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled to reject an effort by the Obama Administration to overturn a December, 2008 stream buffer zone rule without first going through a public rulemaking procedure laid down in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The 2008 Stream Buffer Rule was designed to improve regulatory certainty by clarifying the Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) policy regarding mining in or near streams. The court ruled that “granting the Federal defendants’ motion would wrongfully permit the Federal defendants to bypass established statutory procedures for repealing an agency rule.” The Department of Interior (DOI) had planned to circumvent the APA, which requires government agencies to follow certain procedures, including providing for public notice and comment, before enacting or amending a rule.
In a related move, the Office of Surface Mining published two documents concerning the protection of streams. On November 20, the agency released a document entitled “Immediate Stream Protection Measures” which calls for 1) mandatory coordination between SMCRA permits and Clean Water Act authorizations; 2) meetings between OSM and the states concerning this coordination; and 3) instructions to OSM inspectors to pay particular attention to certain performance standards and permit conditions. On November 30, OSM published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register in which the agency proposed ten alternatives for revising the stream buffer zone rule to “reduce the adverse impacts of Appalachian surface coal mining operations on streams.” Comments are due December 30.
Interior Announces Major Changes to Federal Oversight of State Programs
On November 18, the Interior Department announced a number of proposed actions to improve the agency’s effectiveness in overseeing state implementation of their approved surface coal mining regulatory programs. Under these proposed actions, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) would, for the first time since coal-producing states assumed responsibility for their regulatory programs, conduct independent inspections of operators with state-issued surface coal mining permits. OSM would also conduct more oversight inspections, place greater emphasis on reducing the off-site impacts of mining, and review more state-issued surface coal mining permits and state permitting processes in an effort to improve state permitting decisions. The new OSM oversight and enforcement policy would also include revised guidelines for conducting oversight inspections.
“Through tougher oversight and stronger enforcement of [the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)] we are putting all hands on deck to ensure that Appalachian communities are protected,” OSM Director Joe Pizarchik stated. The reforms announced recently are consistent with the Obama Administration’s commitments in a June 11, 2009, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the harmful environmental consequences of Appalachian surface coal mining. Comments on the document are due December 18.
Udall Introduces Good Samaritan Bill for Cleanup of Abandoned Mines
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) recently introduced legislation intended to clear the way for volunteer groups to clean up abandoned mine sites. The “Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009" (S. 1777) would limit the potential liability under the Clean Water Act that now deters many would-be volunteer organizations, such as watershed groups, from undertaking efforts to clean up abandoned mines. The bill is focused solely on Clean Water Act liability and does not waive any other environmental laws. In this introductory statement, Senator Udall stated that “to help the efforts of good Samaritans, this bill would create a new program under the Clean Water Act under which qualifying individuals and entities could obtain permits to conduct cleanups of abandoned or inactive hardrock mines. These permits would give some liability protection to those volunteering to clean up these sites, while also requiring the permit holders to meet certain requirements.” The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for further action. The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) submitted a letter of support for the bill on November 24.
OSM to Sponsor Acid Mine Drainage Workshop in Indiana in 2010
The Mid-Continent Region’s Technology Transfer Team will be hosting an Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) Workshop in Evansville, Indiana on April 13th and 14th, 2010. The workshop will have an emphasis on the use of bioreactors in the treatment of AMD., and covered topics will range from the evolution, construction, and modeling of bioreactors to other AMD remediation technologies. Speakers will be representing a wide range of organizations and programs that are actively involved in AMD remediation and research in the mid-continent region. The workshop will include field excursions to several of Indiana’s AMD-affected sites. These sites will be in varying stages of reclamation and will demonstrate practical applications of bioreactors and other AMD remediation techniques. Accommodations for the workshop will be at the Drury Inn & Suites, 100 Cross Pointe Boulevard, Evansville (East), Indiana, 47715. Attendees must make their reservations by March 29th, 2010, and must specify that they are part of the “Acid Mine Drainage Workshop” block in order to received the government rate. Reservations can be made by calling 812.471.3400. For further information and registration for the workshop, please contact Kim Vories at OSM’s Alton, Illinois office at 618.463.6463, extension 5103. Indiana AML contacts are Laura Montgrain or Randy Hoffman at 812.665.2207.
IMCC Urges OMB to Reject EPA Proposal to Re-designate Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste
In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag dated November 3, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) registered its opposition to a proposed determination by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that coal combustion waste (or coal ash) be designated as hazardous under Subtitle C of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA is considering the re-designation as part of a proposed rule on the disposal of coal ash at surface impoundments and landfills which was sent to OMB in mid-October for clearance. IMCC explained that such a re-designation would have significant implications for the placement of coal ash in mines, an area that is already extensively regulated by the states. Indicating that nothing in the science or regulatory practice supports such a re-designation, IMCC urged OMB to disapprove any proposed rule by EPA that incorporates such a re-classification and to clarify that the Interior Department, through the Office of Surface Mining, should be designated as the agency of jurisdiction over any new regulatory approach for the mine placement of coal ash. IMCC staff met with OMB officials to further discuss the states’ position on November 12.
IMCC Comments on Interior Department Strategic Plan
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently filed comments on proposed revisions and updates to the U.S. Department of Interior’s strategic plan for Fiscal Years 2010-2015. IMCC noted that while the states are in general agreement with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) that the current performance measures for the agency need to be reviewed and potentially revised, any meaningful and effective adjustments will require a series of interactive OSM/State working sessions, similar to those utilized in the past to develop the measures in the first instance. “We recommend and urge the Interior Department, through OSM, to meet with the states to further examine these existing performance measures and, if necessary, develop a work plan for a cooperative effort to improve the measures in a way that reflects the realities of today’s regulatory environment.” In the meantime, IMCC suggested that the current measures remain in place.
IMCC Requests Delay of State/Tribal AML Reclamation Plan Amendments
In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dated November 3, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC), together with the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP), requested that the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) hold in abeyance a plan to require states and tribes to amend their current Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reclamation plans to accord with the final rules promulgated by OSM in November of 2008. OSM’s final rules were adopted to comply with comprehensive amendments to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) which were signed into law on December 20, 2006 as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. “The member states and tribes represented by our two organizations believe that this action by OSM is premature in light of the potential for further amendments to SMCRA being proposed by the Administration which would substantially alter the current regulatory framework”, IMCC and NAAMLP stated. The groups urged the Secretary to either clarify that the Administration has no intention of moving forward with the proposed amendments to SMCRA, thus allowing the state program plan amendment process to move forward, or to hold the process in abeyance until such time as the legislative process plays out.
States to Receive Significant Increase in Funding for Regulatory Grants in FY 2010
The Interior Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 that was signed into law by the President recently includes an almost $6 million increase for state regulatory grants under Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). This will bring the total amount of funding for states to operate these programs to $71.3 million, an amount that is matched each year by the states. The appropriations measure also includes an amount of $3.5 million for the abandoned mine land (AML) emergency program., which together with the carryover funds from prior fiscal years, will provide about $18 million for critical AML emergency projects that may occur throughout the year, including landslides, subsidence events and contaminated water supplies. The bill also includes a provision, requested by IMCC, to allow the states to match the non-federal share of the cost of projects funded by the federal government for the purpose of environmental restoration related to the treatment or abatement of acid mine drainage from abandoned mines.
OSM Gives Top Honors for AML Reclamation
The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) recently recognized six state agencies for excellence in reclaiming abandoned mines. Abandoned Mine Land (AML) programs in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas received the 2009 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards at a banquet hosted by the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) in Rogers, Arkansas on September 28, 2009.
“OSM is proud to recognize this year’s winners for their achievements in reclaiming abandoned mines,” said Glenda Owens, Acting Director of OSM, “The award-winning projects show what state programs can accomplish when reclamation of abandoned mines is done well.”
“It’s encouraging to see the high-quality work demonstrated by the winners of the 2009 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards,” said Wilma Lewis, Assistant Interior Secretary, Land and Minerals Management. “Reclaiming abandoned mines helps communities affected by past mining by improving local water quality and eliminating safety hazards, among other benefits,” she added.
The winners of the 2009 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards are:
- The National Award: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation, West Suscon Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Jenkins Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
- Small Project Awards (2): Iowa Abandoned Mine Land Program, Mines and Minerals Bureau, Waal West Reclamation Project, Section II, Mahaska County, Iowa; and Alaska Department of Natural Resources AML Program, Suntrana Tipple AML Project, Healy Creek Valley, Alaska.
- The Appalachian Region Award: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management, Belden AMD Reclamation Project, Carroll County, Ohio.
- The Mid-Continent Regional Award: Railroad Commission of Texas, Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, Mabel New-Superior AML Reclamation Project, Live Oak County, Texas.
- The Western Regional Award: Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Inactive Reclamation Program, Millsap Creek Tailings Reclamation Project, Teller County, Colorado.
Visit the "Conference Info" page for Information and A Downloadable Registration Form for IMCC's 2010 Annual Meeting, April 11-14, 2009 in Point Clear, Alabama.