Citizens Speak Out in Favor of More Stream Protection at Coal Mines

Citizens for clean water.

Citizens for clean water.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has proposed a new rule for regulation of coal mining intended to better protect streams, fish, and wildlife from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and impacts to streams from underground mining. 

The proposed rule would update the nearly 30-year-old rule coal mines now operate under and:

  • include regulatory requirements for addressing the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.
  • require mine operators to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation.
  • adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams.
  • ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, including ephemeral streams.
  • ensure that mine operators and regulatory authorities make use of the most current science and technology
  • ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining.
  • update and codify the requirements and dispute resolution procedures involved when the proposed permit or adjacent areas contain federally listed threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat.

OSMRE held six public hearings in Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, W. Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Citizens wait in line to get into the hearing.

Citizens wait in line to get into the hearing.

Illinois Chapter Sierra Club gives a loud shout out to the 38 citizens from Illinois, Missouri and Indiana who attended the Missouri hearing to tell their stories of destruction and pollution. They included citizens on the frontline from: Peabody’s Rocky Branch Mine in Saline County, Springfield Coal’s Industry Mine in McDonough County, Foresight Energy’s Deer Run Mine in Montgomery County and Pond Creek Mine in Williamson County, Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog Mine in Vermilion County, and many more supporters from across the region.

Waiting for the hearing to begin.

Waiting for the hearing to begin.

Everyone did an excellent job of telling their stories and tying them to aspects of the draft rule. In fact, OSMRE staff presiding over the hearing thanked our folks for attending and extended high praise for telling such powerful, compelling stories.

Those testifying on the side opposing new, protective rules for clean water included representatives for Congressmen John Shimkus, Rodney Dave and Mike Bost, and State Representatives Terri Bryant and Avery Bourne. Due to some tricky maneuvering to have others hold their place in line, the vast majority, including those mentioned above, were the first to speak. Unfortunately, our elected officials did not bother to stick around to hear what their constituents, some of whom drove over 200 miles, had to say!

All hands-in celebration after the hearing.

All-hands-in celebration after the hearing.

Others in opposition included the Illinois Coal Association and the Indiana Coal Council and industry representatives from Foresight Energy, American Coal, Peabody Coal, Murray, Knight Hawk Coal, Alliance Coal, Sunrise Coal, Arch Coal. The main talking points among the opposition were that the new rules are: redundant, a solution without a problem, going to cause massive job loss, cause the lights to go out, cause severe rate hikes–all intermixed with lots of Obama blaming and some Sierra Club bashing.

Acid mine drainage can be highly toxic and, when mixed with groundwater, surface water and soil, may have harmful effects on humans, animals and plants.

Acid mine drainage can be highly toxic and, when mixed with groundwater, surface water and soil, may have harmful effects on humans, animals and plants.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) is a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Interior. OSMRE was created in 1977 when Congress enacted the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. OSMRE works with states and tribes to ensure that citizens and the environment are protected during coal mining and that the land is restored to beneficial use when mining is finished. Today, most coal states, including Illinois, have developed their own programs to do those jobs. OSMRE focuses on overseeing the state programs and developing new tools, such as the proposed Stream Protection Rule, to help the states and tribes get the job done.

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