November 15, 2023 - The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources recently held an oversight hearing on the Biden administration's management of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's abandoned and mine lands (AML) and active mining programs. Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) issued the following statement in response:
"Under the Biden Administration, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) implemented misguided administrative complexities that have prevented states from cleaning up former mining sites and slow-walked the approval of good mining projects. These delays have serious ramifications, so I am grateful to the witnesses from various coal mining communities for shining a light on their respective struggles with the OSMRE during today’s hearing. Their testimonies are incredibly helpful as we contemplate solutions to create a more effective and transparent agency."
Coal mining and mine reclamation in the United States are regulated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, housed at the Department of the Interior. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 regulates two aspects of the coal mining sector: the reclamation of coal mines abandoned before the era of modern regulation, known as abandoned mine lands, and the regulation of active coal mining.
Although mine reclamation programs have been successfully implemented for decades, recent efforts by the Biden administration have led to an increase in delays, unclear administrative guidance and unprecedented administrative requirements for coal mining communities and tribes.
Under the SMCRA, states are given the authority to administer their own regulatory programs and administer the state's AML grants under federal oversight. However, the implementation of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has imposed conflicting guidance for states and new socioeconomic considerations that were never previously required. Many coal communities, tribes and states are concerned that these new requirements will lead to greater federal overreach and control of previously state-run regulations.
Coal mining states, communities and tribes are also concerned about increased administrative burdens and the delays to both active coal mining and abandoned mine land revitalization projects. Unfortunately, many states have been experiencing major delays for agency approval for AML sites and for active coal mining. Today's hearing was an opportunity for representatives from these communities to testify on the Biden administration's bureaucratic overreach and for members to learn more about the struggles they are facing.
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