Proposed Stream Protection Rule
The Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) published the proposed Stream Protection Rule in the Federal Register, FR Doc # 2015-17308, on July 27, 2015 with a 60-day comment period. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and a number of other states and associations nationwide filed a request for an 120-day extension of the comment period, citing the need for a thorough analysis of the massive Rule, related Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and draft Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) which totals over 3,000 pages. The request for an extension of the comment period on the proposed Rule took into consideration the immense overhaul of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, required comparison to Pennsylvania’s strong state primacy program, assessment of related existing federal regulations, the technical applications and the complexity of the documents.
Accompanied by the proposed Rule were six public hearings held by OSMRE across the nation, one of which was held in Pittsburgh on September 10, 2015. A day before the hearing, OSMRE announced a 60-day extension to the public comment period, making final comments due October 26, 2015.
OSMRE September 10 public hearing in PIttsburgh, PA
The PCA, several of our member companies, the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection and the Interstate Mining Compact Commission testified in opposition to the Rule at the Pittsburgh hearing. Much of the focus in opposition addressed the economic impact insofar as job losses and local community economies, applying broad national regulations to individual states with varied geological features, data collection requirements and pre-mining requirements that will compound costs and lead to stranded reserves, the overreaching nature of the Rule in that it conflicts with the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and a lack of coordination and cooperation with primacy state programs and industry experts.
PCA submitted our formal comments in opposition to the Rule on October 23, which can be viewed here. In total 94,328 comments were received on the proposed Rule, of which 10,447 can be viewed here. OSMRE reviews all submissions and chooses to redact or withhold certain submissions with private information, inappropriate language or duplicative content.
The Rule will be subject to Congressional hearings which will address, among other key points, the discrepancy in job loss numbers OSMRE has offered and the National Mining Association has estimated, and economic impact including loss in tax revenue
Next, OSMRE must review all of the submitted comments and adjust the Rule based on findings at which point it can be published. If published without substantial changes that reflect the numerous concerns with the Rule, legal challenges are anticipated.