The federal Office of Surface Mining has announced its proposals for strengthening oversight of strip mining to protect the environment in Appalachian coal states. One proposal is to conduct so-called “independent” inspections of state-permitted mines. Kentucky Mine Reclamation and Enforcement director Jim Dickinson says the announcement wasn’t a surprise, but it lacked clarity.
“Not taken by surprise so much as there’s just some verbiage in here that’s new to us, and as I said we’re going to be looking forward to seeing what they have to say about that and we’re going to be discussing it further,” says Dickinson.
State regulators, coal mining companies, and environmental groups have also been waiting for the OSM to announce changes to the so-called “stream buffer” rule. It currently allows mine operators to place debris from mining operations into nearby valleys and streams. The OSM says it will work to protect streams while the new rule is being developed. But those plans are still on the drafting table.