Peter Mail, a spokesman for the surface mining reclamation office, said the proposal's aim is "to better strike the balance between protecting the public and the environment while providing for viable coal mining." Mali said the document is the first working draft that was shared with state agencies, which are giving their comments on it. (More) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=133248892
1/26/2011 - The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement document says the agency's preferred rules would impose standards for water quality and restrictions on mining methods that would affect the quality or quantity of streams near coal mines. The office, a branch of the Interior Department, estimated that the protections would trim coal production to the point that an estimated 7,000 of the nation's 80,600 coal mining jobs would be lost. Production would decrease or stay flat in 22 states, but climb 15 percent in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. . . . West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection official Thomas Clarke told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "I've had OSM technical people who are concerned with stream impacts and outside contractors for OSM who are subcontractors on the EIS give me their opinion that the whole thing's a bunch of junk." (More) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j4JC7Gs3f7cpoJMK1xc-iveOoZ7Q?docId=1b0c534404754dc7a452ff23f9b3194d
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar commended the employees of the Office of Surface Mining on November 19, 2010, for their efforts to improve oversight of state surface coal-mining operations. In the past 12 months the Office of Surface Mining has increased the number of oversight inspections to evaluate how each state is administering its regulatory program. This a clip from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6WSvVpdm-w
12/27/2010 - http://www.register-herald.com/todaysfrontpage/x258589936/What-s-in-a-name-Mountaintop-removal-vs-mountaintop-development (Excerpt)
"In my mind, mountaintop 'removal' implies the site is mined and then left barren, lifeless and flattened. This couldn't be further from the truth," said Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association.
He points to the mining permit requirement that forces miners to restore the mines to their approximate original contour or to configure the land for an "alternate use."
Restoring the land occurs in about 90 percent to 95 percent of former surface mines, Hamilton said.
"We rebuild the mountain peak, resculpting it to approximately as close as possible to the original premining topography of the land, then we reseed it with grasses and trees," Hamilton said.
However, Vivian Stockman, an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that a flyover of the southern West Virginia coalfields suggests little development on former surface mine sites.
"If they're hoping to, you know, create shopping malls on some of these, I don't know where they're going to get all the shoppers," she said. "All the communities around these areas have been driven away."
She added that the notion that West Virginia needs more flat land is a myth.
"Back in 2002 we had some volunteers create some maps for us," she said. "There were just massive amounts of land that are not, in any way, shape or form, developed."
Researchers from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that about 1.2 million acres and about 500 mountains were flattened by surface mining in central Appalachia. An aerial imagery analysis by NRDC found that about 90 percent of mountaintop removal sites were not converted to economic uses. Only about 4 percent of West Virginia and Kentucky mountaintops had been redeveloped, NRDC found.
Salazar Commends OSM Initiatives to Improve Oversight of State Surface Coal Mining Programs - http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Salazar-Commends-OSM-Initiatives-to-Improve-Oversight-of-State-Surface-Coal-Mining-Programs.cfm
In June 2009, the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior Department) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of coal mining in six states in central Appalachia. Through the MOU, the three agencies intend to strengthen oversight and regulation and minimize the adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop removal mining. (More) http://www.osmre.gov/topic/Oversight/SCM/SCM.shtm