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October 2007, VOL. 25, NO. 3

IMCC Holds 2007 Mid-Year Meeting in Park City, Utah

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) held its 2007 Mid-Year Meeting on October 16-17. There were approximately 45 state and federal government representatives in attendance.

The Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly with the Mine Safety and Health Committee on the morning of Tuesday, October 16. The Coal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee met jointly with the Abandoned Mine Lands Committee immediately following. John Baza, Director of the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining for the state of Utah, welcomed attendees at the beginning of the meeting and served as the luncheon speaker on October 16. A networking reception was held in the evening.

On Wednesday, October 17, the Resolutions and Finance and Administrative Committees met. The Executive Commission Business Meeting followed and concluded the Mid-Year Meeting.

Among the key issues discussed at the meeting were a proposed rule by the Mine Safety and Health Administration concerning mine rescue teams, proposed rules by the Office of Surface Mining concerning stream buffer zones and abandoned mine lands, reform of the 1872 Mining Law, funding for state Title V programs under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, blaster certification, and regional protection plans for endangered species such as the Indiana bat. During his luncheon remarks, Mr. Baza briefed attendees on the Crandall Canyon mining disaster and the work of a special commission established by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to investigate the disaster

IMCC 2008 Annual Meeting Scheduled for Teton Village, Wyoming

The next Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place at the Teton Mountain Lodge in Teton Village (Jackson Hole), Wyoming on May 18-21, 2008. Registration forms will be included in the next “Compact” newsletter.

The itinerary for the meeting includes an opening reception the night of Sunday, May 18. The General Session will open the meeting on the morning of Monday, May 19, followed by the Noncoal Section of the Environmental Affairs Committee which will meet jointly with the Mine Safety and Health Committee. The meeting will conclude by Noon. A group excursion and dinner is tentatively planned to the Jackson Lake area in the Grand Teton National Park for the afternoon and evening.

On Tuesday, May 20 a joint meeting will be held of the Coal Environmental Affairs Committee and the Abandoned Mine Land Committee. Tuesday evening the Annual Awards Reception and Banquet will take place.

The Resolutions and Finance and Administrative Committees will meet on the morning of Wednesday, May 21, followed by the Executive Commission Annual Business Meeting which will conclude the Annual Meeting.

For more information regarding the Annual Meeting, visit IMCC’s web site: www.imcc.isa.us and click on the “Conferences” link. Information will be updated regularly and a downloadable registration form will be added as soon as it becomes available. Contact: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or email: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

IMCC Benchmarking Workshop Scheduled for New Orleans in December

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) is sponsoring a “Benchmarking Workshop on Surface and Groundwater Database Development and Use” in New Orleans on December 3-4, 2007, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel located in the French Quarter. The benchmarking workshop will combine panel presentations and interactive panel discussion sessions where attendees can interact with presenters as well as present their experiences on the topics covered in the sessions.

Following a welcome and introductions on Tuesday, December 4, the first panel will present on “Development and Use of a Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) for Mining Regulatory Programs.” The individual panel presentation topics include: “Data Management, GIS and Electronic Commerce Solutions for Oil, Gas, and Mining: Regulatory and Industry Applications” presented by Paul Jehn of the Ground Water Protection Council; “Application of the RBDMS Model in the Ohio Coal Regulatory Program” presented by Scott Kell and Cheryl Socotch of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management; and “Application of the RBDMS Model in the New York Noncoal Regulatory Program” presented by Steve Potter and Don Drazen of the New York State Department of Environmental Control, Division of Mineral Resources.

Some of the topics to be discussed during the interactive discussion for this session include: database development concerns; linkages to other databases (such as those hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)); funding concerns; electronic transfer of data, including LIMS; maintenance of the database; and practical application in the field (use by inspectors).

The Tuesday afternoon panel will present on an “Overview of Select State Database Development Efforts.” Individual presentations from the panel will include: “Water Information Integration in Pennsylvania” presented by Gail Jackson of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Information Technology; “Entry, Verification and Utilization of Active Coal Mine Water Data in Indiana” presented by Bruce Stevens of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Reclamation; “Development of a Relational Database in New Mexico” presented by Monte Anderson of the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, Division of Mining and Minerals; and “The Illinois Experience” presented by Dean Spindler of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Mines and Minerals.

Some of the topics to be discussed during the interactive panel discussion for this session include: user-friendly database software packages; data input, accessibility and reliability; QA/QC; security issues; and regulatory requirements related to data.

A networking reception is scheduled for Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, December 5 the final panel presentation will take place on the topic of “Database Uses, Applications and Manipulation.” Individual presentations from panelists include: “Development of a GIS-Based Interface to an ORACLE Water Quality Database in West Virginia” presented by Nick Schaer of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Mining and Reclamation; “Interface of Water Quality Database with Electronic Permitting Platform” presented by Butch Lambert of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; “The Wyoming Experience” presented by Kathy Muller Ogle of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Division; and “The Federal Perspective: OSM’s Database Development Efforts in Tennessee” presented by Bob Evans of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Appalachian Regional Office.

Topics to be discussed during the final interactive panel discussion include: tracking compliance with state and federal data reporting requirements (including exceedences); evaluating trends in water quality data, especially in watersheds impacted by mining; assessment and graphical analysis of pre-mining and/or legacy water quality data; and in-field applications.

A final Plenary Session will conclude the workshop during which attendees will have the opportunity to present overviews or information from their respective state/federal agency that touch on any of the topics covered. Attendees will also have the opportunity to pose hypothetical questions or circumstances at this time so that others can share their insights or perspectives. There will also be time to raise any additional questions or concerns that have not been fully addressed in the previous sessions. Several additional issues which may be discussed include: formatting, compliance and legal issues associated with electronic submittal of monitoring data by commercial labs; potential to report out data from individual state/federal databases to a common platform to allow sharing of data; software for evaluating seasonal trends in water data; relationship between data gathering (monitoring data) and permitting decision time frames; and developing or adapting an SML schema for data exchange with lands and other agencies, including a web-enabled database with appropriate interfaces.

Call for Nominations for IMCC's 2008 Reclamation and Minerals Education Awards

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) is now accepting nominations for the 2008 National Reclamation Awards and the 2008 Minerals Education Awards. The awards will be presented during the IMCC’s 2008 Annual Meeting in Teton Village, Wyoming next May. Information on deadlines and criteria for the awards and nominating forms and have been distributed to all member state representatives. For further information, contact: Beth A. Botsis at phone: 703.709.8654 or email: bbotsis@imcc.isa.us.

Hardrock Mining Reform Legislation Approved

The House Natural Resources Committee recently approved comprehensive legislation to reform the 1872 Mining Law which governs hardrock mining on public lands. The “Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007" (H.R. 2262) would provide a new framework for the mining of valuable hardrock minerals, such as gold, silver, copper and uranium, on federal lands. The royalty established by the bill will help fund the estimated $30 to $70 billion in costs to clean up abandoned mines – areas that pose significant health and safety threats to the environment and surrounding communities.

Key provisions of the Committee-passed legislation will:
  • Establish an 8 percent gross income royalty on new mineral production and a 4 percent gross income royalty on existing mining operations.
  • Put a permanent end to the sale of mining claims on federal lands.
  • Create an abandoned mine reclamation program.
  • Establish environmental standards for mining, a new permitting process, and operation and reclamation requirements.
  • Grant Native American tribes a similar ability as states and counties to protect their lands from mining activities.
  • Minimize the impact of mining activities on National Parks through creation of buffer zones.
Action by the full House is expected before Thanksgiving.

Wahlquist Confirmed as Director of OSM

On August 3, the Senate confirmed Brent Wahlquist to serve as director of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

“I commend the Senate for their vote of confidence in this outstanding manager and congratulate Brent on his confirmation,” Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne said. “Brent has provided outstanding leadership for the Office of Surface Mining, most recently as acting director and before that as director of the agency’s three regions. I welcome his energy and insight on our policy team.”

Wahlquist, a 24-year career veteran of OSM, had served as acting director from December 2005 until June 2007. He also served as director of OSM’s Appalachian Region in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania overseeing the agency’s programs in a seven-state area since 2002. Previously he had served as director of the agency’s Mid-Continent Region, headquartered in Alton, Illinois and its Western Region in Denver, Colorado and as OSM’s assistant director in Washington, DC. Wahlquist had spearheaded the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative and other innovative OSM programs and projects. Before joining OSM, he served as deputy director of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. He had also worked in the private sector.

Wahlquist holds a doctor of philosophy degree in biology from New Mexico State University, and both a masters degree and bachelors degree in botany from Brigham Young University.

Mining Reclamation Leaders Honored for Significant Contributions

Five people who have made significant contributions to the regulation of coal mines and the reclamation of mined lands were honored August 3 in Washington, DC, on the 30th Anniversary of a landmark environmental law. The five were honored at a recognition ceremony at the headquarters of the US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Each was introduced by OSM and Department of the Interior officials and commended for their “many years of service and unrelenting commitment” to the goals of the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act of 1977 (SMCRA).

The five receiving honors were: Joseph L. Blackburn, Program Manager for Field Support at OSM’s Lexington, Kentucky Field Office; Mike Kastl, Director of the Oklahoma Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Program; Dean Spindler, Supervisor of Operations/Soil Scientist for the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals, Land Reclamation Division; Dwight Thomas, Acting Director, OSM’s Tulsa, Oklahoma Field Office; and Benny R. Wampler, Deputy Director of Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

OSM commemorated the 30th Anniversary of SMCRA by focusing on the people who have made it successful, recognizing the work of all federal, state and tribal employees past and present in addition to the five individuals selected for special recognition.

SMCRA was sponsored by Rep. Morris K. Udall and 17 co-sponsors. When it was signed by President Jimmy Carter on August 2, 1977, it created the federal authority under which all surface coal mining regulation and reclamation programs in the country operate. It established the OSM to work cooperatively with the coal states and tribes to implement the Act.

Since 1977 SMCRA has proven to be a dynamic tool for protecting citizens and restoring mined lands. Since its enactment about 2 million acres have been mined and reclaimed and about 240,000 acres of high-priority abandoned mine hazards have been eliminated through the collaborative efforts of thousands of dedicated federal, state and tribal professionals.

IMCC Comments on Revised Recovery Plan for Indiana Bat

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in July regarding a draft revised recovery plan for the Indiana bat (myotis sodalis) which was published on April 16 following several years of development. In its comments, IMCC noted its concern with the over-emphasis on providing and protecting summer habitat for the Indiana bat in the draft plan. IMCC stated that research and commentary by various experts indicate that current recovery efforts need to be primarily focused on providing suitable winter hibernacula if the species is to achieve recovery levels proposed in the plan. “Once those levels are reached, only then will the summer habitat for roosting become a priority concern,” IMCC commented. “This is particularly important for the mining community, since we do not fully intersect with recovery and protection efforts unless summer habitat is at issue.”

IMCC also noted that the efforts of the states to encourage and enhance potential winter hibernacula associated with abandoned mines have paid significant dividends for Indiana bat recovery efforts. “We intend to continue those efforts to the extent that old, abandoned mining environments are considered suitable for these purposes,” IMCC stated. IMCC also encouraged greater effort to coordinate and cooperate at the regional level between the states and the FWS in designing and implementing effective recovery plans.

IMCC’s comments were developed in light of an interactive discussion that took place among state regulatory authorities during a workshop sponsored by the Office of Surface Mining on the Indiana Bat and Coal Mining in Indianapolis on June 20 and 21. The workshop included presentations on the status of the Indiana bat, a summary of the draft recovery plan, the importance of protecting underground and surface habitats, an analysis of Indiana bat population trend data at coal mines, and an overview of experience by several states regarding their respective protection and recovery efforts.

IMCC Testifies at Oversight Hearing on 30th Anniversary of SMCRA

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) testified at an oversight hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee on July 25 that focused on the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) on the 30th anniversary of its enactment. Greg Conrad, IMCC Executive Director, led off a panel of state government witnesses that included John Corra, Director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality; Stephanie Timmermeyer, Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection; and John Husted, Deputy Chief of the Ohio Division of Mineral Resources Management (on behalf of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs). Other panelists included the Office of Surface Mining, the United Mine Workers, several environmental and citizen groups, and representatives from the coal mining industry.

In their testimony, the states provided an overview of their implementation of SMCRA as primary regulatory authorities under the law. “By almost all accounts, the implementation of SMCRA by the states has been a resounding success,” IMCC noted. “The anticipated purposes of the Act have been or are being accomplished and the overall goal of establishing a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of past and present surface coal mining operations has been achieved. Drainage and runoff controls are in place to ensure that downstream waters are not filled with sediment or otherwise polluted by mining activity; blasting operations are controlled to prevent damage to nearby buildings and other property; final grading and reshaping of mined lands are undertaken to ensure that they are stable and approximate their original contour; topsoil is preserved and then replaced on mined lands to accomplish high levels of productivity; and mined lands are reclaimed to a variety of beneficial uses within a few years after completion of mining. Once reclaimed lands are fully released from bond, they are returned to local landowners in equal or better condition than before mining began. All of these statutory requirements are being accomplished while maintaining a viable coal mining industry that is essential for meeting our Nation’s energy needs.”

IMCC also testified about the significant challenges facing the states into the future, the most crucial being adequate funding for state regulatory programs. “The increasing gap between the states’ anticipated expenditures [for state program operations] and actual Federal funding [pursuant to Title V of SMCRA] is compounding the problem caused by inflation and uncontrollable costs, undermines our efforts to realize needed program improvements and enhancements, and jeopardizes our efforts to minimize the impact of coal extraction operations on people and the environment.” IMCC urged the Committee to support increased funding for state Title V grants beginning in FY 2008 in an effort to avoid the potential turning back of all or portions of state programs to OSM.

The states of Wyoming and West Virginia addressed similar concerns, but also highlighted the accomplishments of their programs in addressing the impacts of surface coal mining operations. Mr. Corra noted that “several innovative approaches to creative reclamation have been developed and implemented in Wyoming and at other western coal mines, resulting in better and more cost effective reclamation. These include the use of variable topsoil replacement depths to achieve specific vegetation goals; the creation of bluff features to replace natural features removed by mining; and the replacement of alluvial valley floors.” He stated that the biggest challenge facing the states is funding. “States are faced with two choices: to use state funds to make up the shortage in the federal grant or to reduce the size of their programs and operate at lower levels of service. Even for states with robust economies, there is little desire by state legislatures to accept unfunded federal mandates. Reduction in staffing levels will result in significant impacts to the quality of our programs, i.e. permitting and compliance responsibilities and mine site reclamation. Building on the success of SMCRA over the past 30 years will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, unless federal funding policies are changed.”

In her testimony, West Virginia Cabinet Secretary Timmermeyer stated that “the industry, government and citizens have become more sophisticated since 1977. Decisions on mining matters are far more deliberative and comprehensive. Now, more than ever before, permit decisions are inclusive of public comment and participation.” She also noted that the permitting process has become a planning tool for companies and communities. “The SMCRA requirement to reclaim mined lands and return them to uses equal or better than those which existed before mining has become an important economic development component for West Virginia.”

In his testimony on behalf of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, John Husted of Ohio emphasized the importance of the abandoned mine land program under SMCRA. “Since the enactment of SMCRA in 1977, the AML program has reclaimed thousands of dangerous sites left by abandoned coal mines, resulting in increased safety for millions of Americans. Specifically, more than 285,000 acres of abandoned coal mine sites have been reclaimed through $3.5 billion in grants to states and tribes under the AML program.” Mr. Husted also addressed the important on-going rulemaking initiated by OSM to implement the provisions of the 2006 Amendments to SMCRA that reauthorized the AML program for an additional 15 years.

IMCC Sponsors Regional Workshop on Underground Mine Mapping

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) sponsored a regional benchmarking workshop on underground mine mapping on August 14 and 15 in Morgantown, West Virginia that was attended by 28 state and federal government representatives. The workshop was presented jointly by the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey and the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. Topics at the workshop included an overview of the Kentucky mine mapping program (with a focus on database development and use); navigating through mine maps; collecting and processing mine maps; using mine maps to compile mined areas; putting mine maps in a geologic context; and building a high quality geodatabase and delivering the data on the web.

Appalachian Region States and OSM Meet

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) held a meeting with the state regulatory authorities in the Appalachian Region on June 26 and 27 in Morgantown, West Virginia to discuss a host of key issues. Presentations were offered on the following topics: Coal Industry Outlook for 2008 and Beyond; Section 404 Permitting Issues Related to SMCRA; Alternative Enforcement in Bankruptcy; AMD Treatment Trust Funds in Tennessee; and Bond Release Procedures and Policy. Extended discussion between OSM and the states focused on the following issues: Title V funding; application of the Clean Water Act to bond forfeiture sites and to AML sites; the role of technology transfer in preventing catastrophic events; OSM’s applied science program; the 2006 amendments to SMCRA regarding the AML program; operation and maintenance costs for long-term treatment scenarios; update on the Appalachian regional reforestation initiative; Endangered Species Act coordination; and federal oversight consistency. Reports were received from each of the states in attendance regarding significant issues or initiatives within their borders.

Upcoming IMCC Meetings:

December 4-5, 2007, New Orleans, Louisiana: “Benchmarking Workshop on Surface and Groundwater Database Development and Use in State Mining Regulatory Programs”

May 18-21, 2008, Teton Village, Wyoming: IMCC 2008 Annual Meeting
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