Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Regulators Question Draft Rule on Water Pollution from Mining

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Regulators Question Draft Rule on Water Pollution from Mining

Article excerpt

The organization representing state mining regulators has expressed major reservations about the Stream Protection Rule proposed by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission, which represents the mining regulatory agencies in its 27 member states, testified at a public hearing in Pittsburgh last week that the draft rule doesn't address regional differences in water and geology, or the different regulatory needs of surface and deep mines.

It also said the draft rule may infringe on state "primacy" as the lead regulatory agency, and will certainly cost much more to implement than the federal office estimates, especially in the areas of permitting and enforcement.

The federal office, in its Regulatory Impact Analysis issued in July when the draft stream rule was unveiled, estimated that implementation of the rule would cost states only $46,000 more a year than they now spend to regulate mining operations.

"I don't know where OSM came up with that number," said Gregory Conrad, executive director of the mining commission. "We haven't had time yet to calculate the actual costs, but the new rule would require additional lengthy reviews by the state regulatory agencies and additional hydrogeologic expertise that most states do not now have on board as part of their existing regulatory programs."

C. Edmon Larrimore, manager of the Maryland Department of the Environment's Mining Program, testified that although Maryland has only 60 mines and produces just 2 to 4 million tons of coal annually, the new rule will require the department to double its existing four-person staff.

Mr. Larrimore was one of 65 people to testify Thursday at the hearing on the proposed Stream Protection Rule, the first comprehensive and wide-ranging update of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The rule proposes regulation of mining practices that damage drinking water sources, permanently pollute streams, increase the risk of flooding or threaten forests.

More than 250 people attended the hearing, including more than 100 miners, many wearing work shirts with reflective safety stripes and hard hats. …

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