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September 2008, VOL. 26, NO. 3

Registration Begins for 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 and evening reception 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.

Information about the meeting and a downloadable registration form can 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.

IMCC Urges OSM to Withdraw AML Rule

In comments filed with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in late August, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) urged the agency to withdraw a proposed rule that would implement provisions of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which reauthorized the abandoned mine land (AML) program under the Surface Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The rule, which was published in the June 20th Federal Register, would address several provisions in the 2006 Amendments including the use of unappropriated state and tribal share balances in the AML Trust Fund for noncoal reclamation and the acid mine drainage set aside program; payments to minimum program states; and the use of grant mechanisms as opposed to direct payments for annual AML funding allocations to states and tribes. Noting that the proposed rule “has a generally heavy-handed tone and is replete with contrived obstacles that treat the states and tribes more as adversaries than partners”, IMCC and the NAAMLP strongly recommended withdrawal of the rule. In the event the agency chose to move forward with a final rule, the two organizations provided detailed comments concerning needed adjustments to the rules to make them more palatable to the states and tribes. “For us, it is not just about the money – it’s about programs and partnerships that work effectively and efficiently to accomplish the greatest amount of AML remediation possible. As a result, our comments are intended to restore and structure the AML program in such a manner that it can make a difference for our citizens and the environment.” A copy of the joint IMCC/NAAMLP comments is available from IMCC.

Contact: Gregory E. Conrad, Executive Director at Ph: 703.709.8654 or E-Mail: gconrad@imcc.isa.us.

MSHA Issues New Rules for Mine Safety Equipment

Recently the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued two final rules regarding mine safety rescue team equipment and underground coal mine fire extinguishers. The rules were published in the September 15 Federal Register. The mine safety rescue team equipment rule updates existing standards regarding equipment required at mine rescue stations serving underground coal and metal and nonmetal mines. The final rule has been revised from a previously released rule in two specific ways: it eliminates a requirement that rescue stations servicing non-gaseous metal and nonmetal mines be equipped with gas detectors capable of detecting methane concentrations; and it requires detectors capable of measuring carbon monoxide concentrations from zero parts per million (ppm) to 9,999 ppm, as opposed to the 10,000 ppm requirement previously proposed.

The final rule retains a requirement that stations be equipped with 12 self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), each with a minimum four-hour capacity and two extra, fully charged oxygen bottles for every SCBA. It omits the requirement for oxygen resuscitators. Teams will be permitted to use them, according to state requirements, but such devices will not be required equipment at each station.

MSHA also issued a rule amending existing rules regarding the quantity and location of firefighting equipment in underground coal mines. The final rule requires mine operators to provide two portable fire extinguishers at each temporary and permanent electrical installation. It also removes the rock dust requirement at temporary electrical installations. Promulgation of this rule eliminates the necessity for operators to file a petition for modification, which had been the required practice to utilize additional fire extinguishers in lieu of rock dust.

Coal Mining Safety Improves in 2007

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently released data which indicates a drop in the fatal occupational injury rates for coal mining in 2007. The data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the coal mining sector experienced a fatal injury rate of 28.4 incidents per 100,000 workers in 2007, down from the 2006 injury rate of 49.5. Coal mining ranked fourth in 2007 behind water transportation (29.9), fishing, hunting and trapping (84.1) and logging (87.1) in number of fatal occupational injury rates. The coal mining sector ranked third in 2006.

Call for Nominations for IMCC Reclamation and Minerals Education Awards

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) is now accepting nominations for the 2009 National Reclamation Awards and the 2009 Minerals Education Awards. The awards will be presented during the IMCC’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska next April. Information on deadlines and criteria for the awards and nomination 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.

MSHA Proposes Mandatory Substance Abuse Programs

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently issued a proposed rule requiring all mine operators to establish a substance abuse program at their operations. The programs would be structured in large part after one administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and will take effect one year following promulgation of a final rule.

New Energy/Environment Office Created in U.S. Treasury

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has created a new office that will take charge of the Department’s environment and energy responsibility. William A. Pizer was appointed to head the new office as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy. The office will support U.S. environmental goals through international financial mechanisms, including overseeing the Clean Technology Fund, the Global Environmental Facility and other financing programs related to energy and environment. The office will also develop domestic and international policy options for addressing climate change. Pizer is currently a fellow at Resources for the Future. His research there focused on environmental policy. He is also senior economist for the National Commission on Energy Policy, and is a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 4th Assessment Report. From 2001 - 2002 he served as senior staff economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Alaska Voters Defeat Anti-Mining Ballot Initiative

On August 26, voters in Alaska defeated a ballot measure that would have prevented the development of new mining operations and also seriously impacted existing operations. Voters rejected ballot initiative #4, entitled a “Bill Providing for Regulation of Water Quality” by a 57 to 43 percent margin. If passed, the initiative would have prohibited the storage or disposal of metallic mineral mining wastes and tailings. The initiative’s supporters argued it was intended to prevent development of new large mining operations, but analysis revealed it would also prevent existing large mines from developing new facilities and renewing permits in the state. Two additional ballot measures which targeted mining were removed from the ballot by court order due to vagueness in wording.

Members of Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown (AAMS), a coalition of mining community supporters and Native American organizations actively campaigned against the initiative, warning it could devastate the state’s mining industry, which provides nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs and nearly $200 million a year in state and local tax revenue.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Rule to Amend Endangered Species Act

On August 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a proposed new rule to amend Endangered Species Act (ESA) rules governing consultations between federal agencies and the FWS. The proposed changes could reduce permit delays caused by inter-government consultations. Under the rule, federal agencies will not be required to consult with FWS when the direct or indirect effects of an action are not anticipated to result in a “take” of a threatened or endangered species under the ESA. To avoid such consultations, an agency must find that its federal action will have no effect on a listed species or critical habitat; or that an action is an insignificant contributor to any effects on a listed species or critical habitat; or that the effects of an action on a listed species cannot be meaningfully identified or detected in a manner that permits evaluation. The rules grant federal agencies, excluding the FWS, the ability to determine whether consultation is required on a particular action. The director of the FWS retains the discretion to request that a federal agency enter into formal consultations if FWS believes that an action might affect listed species or critical habitat.

The proposed rule also reinforces the Secretary of the Interior’s position that federal actions relating to greenhouse gas emissions normally do not require consultation with FWS. In addition, the rule contains a provision meant to ensure that information consultations are completed within a reasonable time. The proposal provides that informal consultations may be terminated unilaterally by a federal agency within 60 days, unless the FWS requests a 60 day extension. If the FWS requests an extension, then a federal agency can terminate informal consultations after 120 days.

EPA Awards Coal Combustion Product Honors

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Coal Combustion Products Partnership (C2P2) honored 20 organizations and individuals with awards to recognize efforts meant to safely increase the use of coal combustion products (CCP). CCPs are generated from coal used to produce electricity at coal-fueled power plants, and the EPA awards recognize achievements including finding new uses for CCPs and developing a web-based educational tool that teaches civil engineering students about the benefits and uses of these products.

EPA said the use of CCP products helps “conserve natural resources, conserve energy, is cost effective, and helps to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” According to EPA, currently 43 percent of CCPs produced are used, an increase from the 32 percent figure recorded in 2001 when C2P2 was started. EPA said its goal is to reach a 50 percent utilization rate by 2011.

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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