Governor Restores Reclamation Bond Pool Funds; Averts Threatened KRC Suit *
Kentucky withdraws haul road exemption from OSM *
Citizens Coal Council and KRC Oppose Weakening of Stream Buffer Zone Rules *
Citizens Coal Council and KRC Oppose Weakening of Permit Block Rules *
KRC CRITICAL OF OSM RULE CHANGE WEAKENING STATE OVERSIGHT *
Governor Restores Reclamation Bond Pool Funds; Averts Threatened KRC Suit Posted: July 24, 2004
On July 12, Governor Fletcher announced that his administration has restored the $3.8 million dollars that had been diverted from the Kentucky Bond Pool Fund - a fund that provides reclamation bond coverage for small and medium-sized coal operations.
The diversion of the funds, used by the legislative and executive branches for general fund purposes, violated the state's obligation to secure federal approval before making changes to the approved bonding program, and "seriously jeopardizes" the ability of that pooled fund to pay reclamation obligations if the mining operations default. The funds were unlawfully transferred in June 2003 and March 2004. On May 13, 2004 the federal Office of Surface Mining disapproved the transfers but took no immediate action to require restoration of the funds.
On June 28, the Kentucky Resources Council served a formal "notice of intent to sue" the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources and Environment and Public Protection Cabinet for failure to comply with federal coal mining laws. The Governor's prompt action resolves the threatened suit and is appreciated by KRC.
To read the Cabinet's press release announcing the restoration of the funds, click here.
Kentucky withdraws haul road exemption from OSM Posted: May 12, 2004
On April 20, the federal Office of Surface Mining announced that Kentucky has withdrawn a proposed change to the state surface mining regulatory program that would have exempted any public roads used for coal haulage from mining regulation. Federal mining laws require that all roads used for coal haulage and access be considered for regulation as needed to protect the public and environment. The Council has represented residents in the communities of Ary, Cumberland and partridge in successful litigation seeking to extend the protections of the surface mining laws to several public roads that are used and damaged by coal haulage. The previous state administration, under pressure from the coal industry, allowed the industry to write a proposed regulatory amendment revising the definition of "affected area" in order to categorically eliminate the possibility of regulating all existing state, local or other public roads where used for coal haulage and access. The proposed state redefinition of "affected area" was criticized by KRC as being irresponsible, in direct violation of federal and state law, and in callous disregard of the legitimate interests of coalfield residents in the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes and the safety and health of their communities. (KRC's previous comments are available on the website). The state regulatory changes are still pending before the legislative review committees and have been deferred by the agency. The withdrawal of the rules from OSM's consideration by the state signals that the proposed revisions are under reconsideration and may be shelved. KRC has promised a challenge to the final rules if the unlawful exemption is adopted as proposed. Thanks to those of you who wrote to OSM in December, 2003 opposing the proposed changes, and our appreciation to the Environmental Quality Commission for its opposition to the proposed regulatory change.
Citizens Coal Council and KRC Oppose Weakening of Stream Buffer Zone Rules Posted: April 8, 2004
On behalf of KRC and the Citizens Coal Council, KRC's National Citizens Coal Law Project filed comments today opposing a proposal by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSM”) to weaken stream buffer zone protections against disposal of spoil and coal wastes in streams. The proposed OSM rulemaking would eliminate the existing regulatory requirement that stream buffer zone incursions be allowed only where instream water quality is protected. Under the rubric of providing clarification and resolving regulatory uncertainty the proposed rule in fact represents another effort by the Bush Administration to accommodate the destruction of headwater streams through dumping of mine wastes and excess mine spoil. To read the comments, click here.
Click on the headline to read KRC's latest letter to OSM.
Citizens Coal Council and KRC Oppose Weakening of Permit Block Rules Posted: March 30, 2004
On behalf of KRC and the Citizens Coal Council, KRC's National Citizens Coal Law Project filed comments Monday opposing a proposal by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSM”) to allow applicants for mining permits to conceal from regulators and the public the identities of persons who have the actual ability to determine the manner in which the permit applicant will conduct mining operations. The proposed OSM rulemaking would change the "ownership and control rules" that implement the Congressional prohibition against issuing new permits to operations linked to current violators of the law. The OSM proposal would hobble regulatory authorities in deciding whether to deny permits to corporations that own other corporations currently in violation of environmental laws. The proposed regulatory rollback also would place a new and unexplained burden of proof on regulatory authorities who attempt to block the issuance of new permits to persons who own or control coal industry scofflaws. The comments, developed on behalf of KRC and the Citizens Coal Council by veteran citizen's lawyer Walt Morris, point out that OSM has failed to cite any factual basis to show that the proposed changes are necessary and has failed to give any reason for the changes except the agency's desire to settle a lawsuit brought by a coal industry trade group. To read the comments in pdf format, click here.
KRC CRITICAL OF OSM RULE CHANGE WEAKENING STATE OVERSIGHT Posted: February 2, 2004
KRC filed comments today opposing the Office of Surface Mining's proposed rule weakening oversight of state mining programs. Under the change, a state refusing to amend the state laws and regulations in order to keep current with the federal law and OSM regulations would no longer face mandated sanctions. Instead, the "overall effectiveness" of the program would have to be in jeopardy before OSM would act. In its comments, KRC is critical of the proposed change: "There are two definitions of 'oversight' – the first, to oversee; the second, to overlook. The proposed rule continues the lamentable transition of OSM from its historic role as monitor of state performance to one of an agency that has lost sight of its intended function." To read KRC's comments in full, click here.