On April 13, the Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) announced that OSMRE will be reinitiating formal programmatic consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, pursuant to Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and 50 CFR § 402.16, with respect to OSMRE’s implementation of Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act ( SMCRA). Today’s action is an acknowledgment that the recent disapproval and nullification of OSMRE’s Stream Protection Rule (SPR) by recent operation of the Congressional Review Act also in turn, nullified both the Dec. 16, 2016, Programmatic Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Regulatory Program as Modified by the Issuance and Implementation of the Final Regulation (2016 BiOp).Given that it would have been unlawful for OSMRE to have allowed the 2016 BiOp to … [Read more...] about Good News for States and Surface Coal Mine Operators in Recent Department of Interior Announcement
Coal mine dragon
About a year ago, I wrote in these pages that efforts by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restrict coal mining in West Virginia have very little to do with trying to enforce compliance with existing laws. (Opposition to Coal Mining in W.Va.: It's Not About the Law, The State Journal, June 12, 2009.) EPA's latest move -- issuance on April 1, 2010 of a 31-page "Guidance" document on "Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Justice Executive Order" -- should be enough to remove any doubt about that. This and other EPA actions over the last several months have continued to evince a disdain on the part of that agency for the 'niceties' of sound regulatory law.The April 1 EPA memorandum imposes fundamentally new, far more stringent standards for approving mining-related permit applications under the Clean Water Act and other statutes (effective immediately, but … [Read more...] about EPA’S New “Guidance” on Coal Mine Permitting Reveals a Different Kind of Transparency
Coal haulage machines and scoops operating in working sections of underground coal mines will be required to be outfitted with proximity detection devices on a phased-in schedule if a proposed rule issued by the Mine Safety and Health Administration is finalized.Proximity detection is a technology that uses electronic sensors to detect motion and the distance between a miner and a machine. All four MSHA-approved proximity detection systems include machine-mounted components and a miner-wearable component. These systems provide distinctive audible and visual warnings and automatically stop moving machines before injuring miners who come too close to them.“This proposed proximity detection system rule would better protect our nation’s miners from being crushed or pinned in confined underground mine spaces where large equipment is constantly in motion,” MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main said in a statement accompanying release of the proposal on September 2. “We … [Read more...] about MSHA Proposes Proximity Detection Rule for Mobile Equipment in Underground Coal Mines
This is part two in a series discussing the UBB mine explosion, the federal response, the potential response and the possible impact on West Virginia's coal industry. There has already been a considerable federal response in the short time since the accident but there will likely be much stronger and more aggressive action by the federal government. The article will provide a brief summary of relevant information concerning the UBB accident and summarize the ensuing federal response. As has been widely reported, on April 5, 2010, at 3:27 p.m., there was an explosion at Massey Energy's UBB underground coal mine located in Montcoal, Raleigh County, West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners were killed in the explosion that occurred about 1,000 feet underground. On April 26, Massey Energy released a letter to its stakeholders. The letter advised that the UBB mine had ceased operations pending a determination of the cause of this explosion and that it was unclear when it would resume production. … [Read more...] about Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion and the Federal Response: Part Two How will Federal Actions Ultimately Impact West Virginia’s Coal Mining Industry?
Toxins in the soil: The U.S. Geological Survey has found toxic compounds in soil and water around mountaintop-removal mining sites in central Appalachia.The U.S. Geological Survey has found high levels of toxic compounds in soil and water around mountaintop-removal mining sites in central Appalachia, a potentially groundbreaking finding with human health consequences.After a year of testing air, water and soil, researchers concluded that people in mountaintop mining communities in southern West Virginia live in an environment with significant chemical discrepancies from the rest of the state. This could suggest that documented health problems in the region are linked, at least in part, to the mining operations.Bill Orem, USGS research geochemist and project chief, said mining areas display “unusually high” pH and conductivity levels in the water, abnormal air particulate loading, and irregular levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil and streams. … [Read more...] about U.S. Geological Survey Study Finds Toxins from Mountaintop Coal Mining Sites
By letter dated April 30, 2013, EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe denied a petition filed by the Sierra Club and other groups, seeking to have the agency issue a determination pursuant to section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §7411(b), finding that air pollution emissions from coal mines “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.” Had the EPA made such a finding, it would have then been obligated to issue New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for the pollutants addressed in the determination, initially applicable to new or modified coal mines, and potentially applicable to existing mines after further rulemaking. 42 U.S.C. §§7411(b)(1)(B), (d). The primary pollutant of concern is methane generated from underground mining operations, although the petition addressed mines of all types, and also sought regulation of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (both ozone precursors). … [Read more...] about EPA Declines to Create New Air Pollution Control Program for Coal Mines – For Now.
The United States has ample coal deposits, but mining companies and their investors must contend with a growing number of environmental regulations that might affect the value of those deposits.Heavy Regulation of Coal-Fired Power Plants Is Here to StayCoal-fired power plants in the United States are subject to extensive environmental regulations. Those regulations are likely to grow more stringent in the near future, possibly resulting in decreased domestic demand for coal. There are many examples of these regulations; the following are just a selection:In April 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This rule will likely require additional air emission controls to be installed on several midwestern power plants. In June 2014, EPA proposed new regulations that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing coal-fired electricity generating units. EPA is … [Read more...] about Environmental Regulatory Developments Affecting Coal Mining in the United States
Some underground coal mine operators already saddled with copious amounts of paperwork will soon be required to monitor and report their greenhouse gas emissions. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) signed a rule requiring that four additional source categories track and report greenhouse gas emissions under EPA's earlier GHG reporting rule published October 30, 2009. Underground coal mines were originally excluded from the 41 sources regulated in the 2009 rule, but will now be required to report certain methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide emissions when the rule becomes effective.While surface mines, post-mining activities, and abandoned mines are excluded from the rule, underground coal mines classified by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) as active, currently under development, or with active degasification systems will be required to record and report emissions if they are subject to MSHA’s ventilation system … [Read more...] about EPA’s Climate Change Requirements Grow: Underground Coal Mines Added to List July 6, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") has proposed to rescind the Clean Water Act ("CWA") section 404 permit for a controversial mountaintop removal coal mining project in West Virginia, more than three years after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") issued the permit. It would be a rare application of the EPA's "veto" authority to a previously issued permit. When viewed in combination with other pending actions by the EPA, the proposed action appears to signal a decision by the agency to take a more assertive stance toward regulation of mountaintop removal mining operations generally.CWA section 404(c) allows the EPA to prohibit or restrict discharges of dredged or fill material to waters of the United States if it finds that the discharge would have unacceptable adverse impacts on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas. 33 U.S.C. § 1344(c). The EPA issued a Proposed Determination ("PD") on April 2, 2010, … [Read more...] about EPA Proposes ‘Veto’ of Section 404 Permit for Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Project in West Virginia
The division bench of Karnataka High Court has differed in its views on a plea made by a Kolkata-based mining company against the recovery of nearly Rs 300 crore additional levy on coal block allotment with one member of the bench ordering inquiry into the “unholy nexus” between the state-owned Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd (KPCL) and the mining company.The bench comprising Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee (now retired) and Justice Dinesh Kumar differed in their views on a petition moved by Kolkata-based Eastern Mineral and Trading Agency (EMTA) and Karnataka EMTA Coal Mines Limited (KECML), its joint venture with KPCL.The petitioners had sought a declaration that the respondents (Centre, KPCL and others) are not entitled to recover the additional levy from any person other than the original allottees and restraining the respondents to recover the additional levy amount from them.While Justice Mukherjee held KECML and EMTA were not liable to pay additional levy and … [Read more...] about Additional Levy On Coal Mining: K’taka HC Judges Differ In Views, One Orders Inquiry Into Scam Involving KPCL [Read Order]