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October 2006, VOL. 24, NO. 3

IMCC 2006 Mid-Year Meeting Held in Lake Placid, New York

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) 2006 Mid-Year Meeting was held in beautiful Lake Placid, New York in the Adirondack Mountains on October 4-5 at the Lake Placid Crowne Plaza Resort.

The meeting began with a casual reception on the evening of Tuesday, October 3. Lake Placid Mayor James Rogers welcomed attendees on the morning of Wednesday, October 4, followed by IMCC committee meetings which met throughout the day. The group broke for a luncheon featuring guest speaker Gordy Sheer, Marketing Director of USA Luge, and an Olympic silver medal winner. Rain did not dampen the spirits of attendees as they were transported on Lake Placid by boat to an evening reception at Camp Majano. The Executive Commission Business Meeting concluded the Mid-Year Meeting on Thursday, October 5.

IMCC 2007 Annual Meeting is Scheduled for Indianapolis, Indiana

The 2007 Annual Meeting of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) will be held from April 29 - May 2, 2007 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. A meeting announcement and registration form, including hotel reservation information, are included in the print version of this newsletter.

A welcoming reception will kick off the meeting on the evening of Sunday, April 29. An opening session will take place on Monday, April 30, followed by the Joint Meeting of the Environmental Affairs Committee, Noncoal Section and the Mine Safety and Health Committee. Guests will enjoy a networking social dinner that evening at nearby Buca di Beppo.

The Environmental Affairs Committee, Coal Section and the Abandoned Mine Lands Committee will meet jointly on Tuesday, May 1. That evening IMCC will present its 2007 National Mined Land Reclamation Awards and Mineral Education Awards during the Annual Awards Banquet.

The Resolutions Committee and Finance and Administrative Committee will meet prior to the Executive Commission Annual Business Meeting on the morning of Wednesday, May 2. The Annual Business Meeting is expected to conclude by early afternoon.

Information on the meeting can also be found on IMCC’s website at www.imcc.isa.us by clicking on the “Conference info” tab from the home page.

Contact: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Welcomes Alaska as Newest Associate Member State

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) unanimously adopted a resolution at the recent Executive Commission Business Meeting in Lake Placid, New York welcoming the state of Alaska as a new associate member to the Compact at the request of Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski. The state of Alaska was represented at the meeting by Joe Wehrman, Abandoned Mine Land Program Manager for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The Governor’s official representative is Dick Mylius, Director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water.

IMCC Benchmarking Roundtable Discussion on Blasting

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) sponsored a benchmarking roundtable discussion focused on the regulation of blasting on October 5 in conjunction with its Mid-Year meeting in Lake Placid, New York. Representatives from several state regulatory agencies and the federal Office of Surface Mining participated in the discussions. Among the topics discussed during the workshop were monitoring of blasts; use of state-owned seismographs; site-specific blast plan conditions in permits; protocols for investigating citizen complaints related to blasting; use of modified scaled distance factors; and challenges associated with blast records. Attendees also discussed anticipated future challenges and issues related to blasting including urban sprawl and setback requirements; magazine security; fugitive dust and NOx fumes associated with blasting; and impacts of blasting on water wells and public utilities. In preparation for the roundtable discussion, IMCC prepared a report collating the results of a survey of the states on blasting regulation.

IMCC Releases New Education Poster

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently made available an updated version of its educational poster featuring reclaimed mine sites. The theme of the poster, “What do all these places have in common? They’re all reclaimed mine sites” focuses on photographs of actual reclaimed sites in various IMCC member states, each depicting a different post-mining land use. The sites are located in Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, New York, Utah, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A narrative titled “What is Reclamation and How is it Done?” appears on the back of the poster, along with a list of the sites pictured on the front, where they are located, and what was mined at each one. Instructions for “Bird Seed Mining”, an educational activity which can be used by teachers in their classrooms, is also included on the back.

Copies of the new poster may be ordered from IMCC by contacting: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654, or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Awards Program Accepting Nominations for 2007

Nominations are now being accepted for the Interstate Mining Compact Commission’s (IMCC) annual Kenes C. Bowling National Reclamation Awards and the Floyd G. Durham Excellence in Reclamation by a Small Operator Award. In addition, the annual Mineral Education Awards are open for nominations.

Each year two winners are chosen to receive national reclamation awards: one in the Noncoal Category and one in the Coal Category. When deemed appropriate by IMCC’s Awards Committee, a winner in the Small Operator Category is also chosen.

IMCC also presents two Minerals Education Awards: the Mineral Awareness Educator Award, and the Public Outreach Award. Award winners are recognized at an annual banquet held in conjunction with IMCC’s Annual Meeting, which will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2007.

Contact: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or E-mail: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Senate Committee Approves Bush Nominees

On September 5, 2006, President Bush re-submitted five nominations to fill key mining-related vacancies in the Department of Interior (DOI), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The President had to send the nominations back as senators were unable to vote on the nominees prior to adjourning for their summer recess.

On September 13, three of the re-submitted nominees were approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Those nominees were: John Correll as director of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in DOI, David Bernhardt as DOI solicitor, and Mark Myers as director of the United States Geological Survey.

Also among those re-nominated are: Richard Stickler to head DOL’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and career DOI official Mary Bomar to head the National Park Service. President Bush also re-nominated William Wehrum, Jr., for a vacant assistant administrator post in EPA.

On August 31, President Bush used a recess appointment to re-install Michael Duffy as a member of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Duffy’s appointment ensures that the commission will have the required compliment of members necessary for it to conduct business. He continues to serve as Chairman of the Commission.

OSM Publishes Final Revegetation Rule

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) published a final revegetation rule in August, 2006 which increases the flexibility for coal operators to meet certain land reclamation success standards, while also making it easier for operators to document and verify that they have satisfied reclamation requirements. Among the reclamation practices affected by the rule is a provision allowing operators to redistribute topsoil in reclamation projects in a non-uniform fashion, so as to encourage plant diversity, provided that such distribution is justified and deemed accepted by a regulatory authority. The rule also allows for approved topsoil supplements or substitutes to be treated as topsoil materials for the purposes of storage and redistribution. The rule also eliminates a requirement mandating that revegetation success standards and sampling techniques be included in an approved regulatory program, which will allow state regulatory authorities increased flexibility in setting revegetation success standards and sampling techniques. The rule also enables state regulators to keep pace with technological advances and tailor success standards to local conditions, while no longer requiring states to secure Office of Surface Mining (OSM) approval for reclamation success standards. The rule still requires states to select reclamation standards that satisfy a 90 percent confidence interval.

Coal mine operations in semi-arid areas will no longer be limited to using two consecutive years of data to demonstrate reclamation success for certain post-mining land uses under the new rule. Instead, the rule lays down vegetation parameters for grazing, pasture and crop lands that must equal or exceed the approved success standard during any two growing seasons after the sixth year of the operator’s responsibility period for the land. This change makes the regulation consistent with the standard governing non-semi arid regions, which provides that revegetation success standards for post-mining land uses be matched or bettered during any two years of the responsibility period, apart from the first year. This change will minimize the possibility that operators in the west will be penalized for climatic variability.

The rule also makes a number of revisions to OSM’s 80/60 rule governing a wide variety of post-mining land uses. The 80/60 rule provides that at the time of bond release, at least 80 percent of the trees and shrubs used to determine revegetation success must have been in place for 60 percent of the applicable minimum period of responsibility. The new rule effectively eliminates the current need under the 80/60 rule for field verification of the time in place for individual plants. The rule also allows volunteer plants of approved species to be included in the 80/60 revegetation success count, even when it cannot be verified that volunteer plants are more than two years old.

IMCC Testifies on Good Samaritan Cleanup Efforts

On July 13, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) testified before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the House Resources Committee at an oversight hearing on “Opportunities for Good Samaritan Cleanup of Hard Rock Abandoned Mine Lands.” Speaking on behalf of the IMCC, Joseph Pizarchik, Director of the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, addressed the experience of the state in reclaiming abandoned mine lands under Titles IV and V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and under Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act. He noted that between the efforts of the state’s AML program and the state’s emphasis on remining opportunities, hundreds of miles of once-dead streams and rivers have been brought back to life and thousands of acres of land have been restored for valuable postmining uses. He also stated that since 1999 when Pennsylvania enacted the first Good Samaritan Act in the nation, thirty four projects focused mainly on mine drainage have been undertaken. “A number of other projects have not been done because of the potential for incurring liability under federal law”, Mr Pizarchik said. “The opportunities for reclamation by Good Samaritans would be enhanced by the enactment of federal legislation, which should also include coal.” Mr. Pizarchik went on to address pending legislation in the House and Senate that address Good Samaritan cleanups, providing several recommendations for improvements from the states’ perspective.

In a related development, prior to Congress’ adjournment for the November elections, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a modified version of the “Cleanup of Inactive and Abandoned Mines Act” (S. 1848) on September 13, which marks the first time a congressional committee has approved a piece of Good Samaritan mine clean-up legislation. The bill provides a liability shield that prevents Good Samaritans from being held liable for the cleanup of an entire site subject to strict standards laid down by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The bill also ensures that voluntary cleanup efforts are not saddled with an indefinite obligation under the Clean Water Act to prevent discharges to surface waters from the abandoned site. The bill requires that permits for Good Samaritans be approved by both EPA and state agencies, and that such permits be granted only in situations where the environment will be significantly improved.

IMCC States Meet With EPA and OSM to Discuss NRC Report on Coal Combustion Residues

Several members of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) met with representatives from the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 26 to discuss the findings and recommendations of the National Research Council contained in a report released in March entitled “Managing Coal Combustion Residues (CCRs) in Mines.” During the course of the discussions, the states presented a listing of their concerns with the report, particularly those recommendations that would impact existing state regulatory programs and protocols for addressing mine placement of CCRs. Key areas of concern include test methods for CCR characterization; performance measures and permitting requirements for site characterization; monitoring requirements, particularly the compliance point and duration; reporting requirements; and the need for site-specific flexibility to account for unique differences among states. OSM and EPA are expected to release notices before year’s end concerning their intentions to regulate in this area in light of the NRC report.

IMCC Hosts Regional Benchmarking Workshops on Mine Mapping

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) recently held two regional benchmarking workshops on mine mapping as a follow-up to IMCC’s national workshop in June of 2005. The first of these regional workshops was held in Frankfort, Kentucky on August 29 and was hosted by the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. The 25 state and federal agency representatives who attended the workshop received hands-on demonstrations on evaluating and preparing mine maps and on scanning, cleanup and geo-referencing of maps. Attendees also received a presentation on map images. The second workshop was held on October 17 in Morgantown, West Virginia and was hosted by the Geological and Economic Survey and the Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training. Topics included collecting and processing mine maps, using mine maps to compile mined areas, putting mine maps in a geologic context, and setting up the GIS and delivering mine map data on the web. Approximately 20 state and federal agency representatives attended the workshop.

In a related development, IMCC made a presentation to the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Earth Resources on October 11 concerning underground mine mapping, presenting an overview of recent state efforts and forecasting state needs into the future, particularly in the area of resources.

Army Corps of Engineers Proposal re. Mine Permits

In a September 26 Federal Register notice, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a proposed rule that would revise and reissue existing Nationwide Permits (NWP) for surface coal and hardrock mining operations, while creating two new permits covering remining and underground coal mining activities. The current NWPs are set to expire on March 17, 2007. The corps intends to have the revised and new permits take effect immediately upon expiration of the current NWPs.

The Corps has proposed that NWP 21, which authorizes discharges associated with surface coal mining operations, be re-issued for existing mine permits without a threshold limit on the acreage or linear feet of waters and streams that can be impacted by a surface coal mine. The Corps is soliciting comments on whether a two-acre threshold should be included in NWP 21 permits.

The Corps proposed extending NWP 44 permits, which govern discharges at hardrock mines, to authorize all types of mining activities except for coal mining. The proposal retains the existing half-acre limit on waters and streams that can be impacted by mining activities. The Corps also proposed removing restrictions on beneficiation and mineral processing from NWP 44, arguing that such restrictions are more appropriately addressed on a case-by-case basis.

A new permit proposed by the Corps, NWP E, would provide permits for remining activities at previously mined sites, including mining in an adjacent unmined area, provided the newly mined area is less than 40 percent of the area being remined and reclaimed. The permit also requires that applicants clearly demonstrate that the overall project, including reclamation activity and any new mining, will result in a net increase in aquatic resource functions.

The second new permit, NWP F, would authorize discharges from underground coal mining activities and includes the half-acre water impact limit contained in NWP 44. The new permit does not authorize coal preparation and processing activities outside of the mine site. These activities would require authorization under NWP 21.

House ROCK Act to Support Critical Minerals Information Collection

On September 14, the Resource Origin and Commodity Knowledge (ROCK) Act of 2006 was formally introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Thelma Drake of Virginia. A September 21 hearing of the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee was held on the bill. The legislation is designed to strengthen the federal government’s ability to collect, analyze and disseminate critical minerals information. It would transform the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Minerals Information Team (MIT) into an independent agency within the Department of the Interior which would allow MIT more latitude to collect, analyze and distribute vital supply and demand statistics.

The bill authorizes up to $30 million over a ten year period to fund MIT and creates an administrator position to head the agency, with the administrator being nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The bill grants the administrator complete independence from the Secretary of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget with respect to data gathering and the publication of minerals information and analyses. The administrator would be required to have a broad background and substantial experience in the mineral industry and the management of mineral resources. MIT would be staffed by one associate administrator and four assistant administrators, with a total of 300 positions being allotted to the agency.

OSM Proposed Rule on Ownership and Control

On October 10, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) published a new proposed rule on ownership, control and sale of coal mining permits. The new rule is intended to replace a previous proposed rule issued in 2003. The new rule addresses both ownership and control issues and the transfer, assignment or sale of permit rights. The proposed rule also repeals existing rules authorizing federal suspension and recession of state permits that OSM believes were improperly issued. The new rule completely withdraws the 2003 proposal, as well as a related 2005 proposal regarding the transfer, assignment or sale of permit rights. OSM is accepting comments on the rule until December 11.

Indiana Governor Unveils "Hoosier Homegrown" Energy Plan

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels unveiled the “Hoosier Homegrown” comprehensive energy plan in August. The plan is designed to lessen Indiana’s dependency on imported natural gas and oil by increasing the use of Indiana coal and deploying clean coal technologies. The plan is aimed at producing electricity and transportation fuels in Indiana using the state’s large coal reserves, thereby developing the state’s energy potential and ensuring Indiana’s “economic comeback.” Governor Daniels noted in his announcement that 75 percent of Indiana’s current energy expenditures are used to purchase imported energy. Ninety percent of the state’s electricity is generated using coal, but 50 percent of that coal is produced outside Indiana. The Governor’s plan aims to better use Indiana’s 17 billion tons of coal reserves through the construction of new generation coal-fueled plants that can more productively and cleanly use Indiana’s vast coal reserves.

“Our energy industry must grow. With new forms of energy production, such as biodiesel, ethanol and clean coal, we will preserve and grow jobs and incomes,” Daniels said. The plan calls for the construction of new coal-fueled power plants that utilize clean coal technologies and advocates producing synthetic gas from Indiana coal, rather than importing natural gas. To help implement the plan, the Governor signed an executive order creating the Interagency Council on Energy. The chair of Indiana’s Utility Regulatory Commission and Indiana’s Utility Consumer Counselor, as well as senior officials from seven departments and agencies will make up the Council. It will be chaired by Indiana’s Office of Energy and Defense Development.
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