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West Virginia coal mining in deep water

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World Coal,

The West Virginia Coal Association has issued an outlook in relation to the federal Office of Surface Mining’s release of the revised Stream Buffer Zone Rule for West Virginia coal mining.

The federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has released a revised Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which affects the ability of mountaintop removal mining companies to destroy or bury waterways near surface mining operations. The rule prohibits harmful mining activities within 100 ft of Appalachian streams.

Jason Bostic, Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association stated: “The unrelenting assault on coal by the Obama Administration continued today, with the issuance by the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) of new revisions to the existing Stream Buffer Zone (SBZ) rule. The OSM claims this new rule provides ‘regulatory certainty.’ How can a 1200 page rule that blurs different statutes offer clarity or certainty?”

“And most egregious of all is the charade of a robust public comment process put forward by OSM in the crafting of this rule,” Bostic said. “The OSM performed a regulatory sleight of hand by requesting input from the states, then essentially slamming the door to that input while they moved to rewrite the law itself. In fact, nine out of ten states that were requested to provide input formally pulled out of the process as it moved forward without them.

OSM reported its primary purpose of the revised rule is to apply updated science and reinforce the need to minimise the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, fish, wildlife and related environmental values, with particular emphasis on protecting or restoring streams and aquatic ecosystems.

However, Bostic believes this is not the case. He commented: “At its core, this appears to be an insidious attempt by OSM to blur the Surface Mining Act with the Clean Water Act to accomplish what EPA has previously failed to do – trample the responsibility of the states to develop their water quality standards.”He also discussed the OSM’s predictions of job cut backs in mining. “It is also clear that the OSM’s estimate that ‘only’ 200 mining jobs would be lost due to the implementation of this plan has about as much validity a carnival sideshow palm reading. Several recent studies have shown the huge discrepancies between Obama Administration estimates of economic impact and the reality once these policies are implemented.”

Bostic concluded his outlook on the revised rule by saying: “OSM arrogantly made the statement that the rule is ‘intended to protect the people of the coalfields.’ To that, we call on our congressional and state elected leaders to protect our coal miners from a runaway federal agency that is trying to replace a statute with a regulation developed in secret and wrapped in bureaucratic intrigue.”

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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