Federal Process for Overseeing Coal Mine Operations Streamlined
By Jessica Casey
November 1, 2020 - The Department of the Interior’s Deputy Secretary, Kate MacGregor, has announced a final rule to improve the processing of Ten-Day Notices (TDNs). 10 days is the amount of time the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) provides to state partners to address a reported mining complaint or potential violation. The finalised rule improves the process by requiring timely, direct coordination with state partners, eliminating wasteful, duplicative investigations that can cause unnecessary delays in addressing concerns or potential violations.
“It is indisputable that the last Administration was no friend to the coal miners across this great country who provide cheap, baseload power, especially in states like West Virginia (94%), Kentucky (80%), Indiana (75%) and Ohio (51%),” said MacGregor.
“This rule restores the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977’s (SMCRA) mandate of cooperative federalism, reduces duplicative red tape, and ensures we work alongside our state partners who are the primary enforcement authorities under the law.”
“This is a common sense solution to a problem we’ve faced for years. As a former state regulatory official, I made it a priority to fix this flawed process when I joined OSM,” commented OSMRE’s Principal Deputy Director, Lanny E. Erdos. “I share the President and Secretary Bernhardt’s commitment to making sure we are working as efficiently and quickly as possible.”
“We look forward to working with OSMRE on the implementation of this pragmatic new approach,” added Dave Crow, Chief of the Ohio Division of Mineral Resources Management. “We appreciate the efforts to streamline and clarify this process.”
The SMCRA authorises OSM to use TDNs to notify state regulatory authority (SRA) partners when a potential violation exists at a mine site. OSM may issue a TDN based on its oversight or in response to a citizen’s complaint. The SRA then has 10 days to respond.
The new rule specifies that if a citizen alerts OSM of a potential violation, OSM will directly coordinate with SRAs. This direct coordination allows OSM to determine if the states have already investigated the potential violation, which promotes sharing of resources, saves time, and eliminates duplicative efforts, resulting in a more effective implementation of SMCRA.
The TDN rule-making supports President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, which directs the Federal government to remove unnecessary regulatory burdens.
OSM solicited comments from all interested parties for 30 days in May 2020, and carefully considered those comments before finalising the rule.