Via E&E Publishing:
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Director Joseph Pizarchik will be back in the House this week for another round of Republican tongue-lashing.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will be the second House panel this month to question the economic impact of his agency’s controversial rulemakings.
The Obama administration’s controversial stream protection rule was the focus of a recent House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The new protections for waterways near coal mining will likely dominate Wednesday’s meeting as states continue to voice their outrage with OSMRE’s handling of the process (Greenwire, March 3).
Seventeen states have sent letters to OSMRE urging the agency to provide rule documents in compliance with an order included in the latest omnibus spending bill. They include top coal states Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Republican Reps. Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Ken Calvert of California, and Republican Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski sent their own letter demanding progress.
OSMRE proposed the stream protection rule last July after six years of tense back-and-forth with states over its attempt to rewrite the George W. Bush administration’s stream buffer zone rule.
Coal advocates in industry and Congress immediately blasted the proposal. Many have maintained it is “a rule in search of a problem,” but states have laid into OSMRE for cutting off promised collaboration in recent years.
In the Senate, Republicans accused the agency of violating states’ environmental and mining regulatory authorities and failing to properly gather input from local regulators during a recent hearing (E&E Daily, Feb. 4).
Defending his agency earlier this month, Pizarchik told House members that “substantive” input from the states directly shaped the rule and his agency is in the process of uploading all documents online for states to access.
After the rule’s release, OSMRE attempted to re-engage with states multiple times, he said, to no avail. “I can only keep offering, but I can’t have a meaningful exchange if they choose not to meet with me,” Pizarchik said.
Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) said an online database couldn’t take the place of state-by-state sit-downs and chastised Pizarchik for refusing to extend the rule’s public comment period for a second time.
“If you are really sincere about re-engaging and working, give us time to work through the documents, analyze, study it, and then sit down with you and talk about the implications,” he said.
An opportunity for harmony during Wednesday’s proceedings is Rogers’ H.R. 4456.
Well liked in Appalachia, the “Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act” would dispense $1 billion over the next five years from the abandoned coal mine reclamation fund to address cleanup needs and revive coal communities (E&ENews PM, Feb. 3).
The proposal mirrors another that is part of the Obama administration’s proposed Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Plus (POWER+) Initiative, but both have drawn skepticism from regulators and officials in some states.
Greg Conrad, executive director of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, has expressed concerns about affecting formulas for distributing abandoned mine lands funds that Congress set up during the 2006 amendments to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
Last week, the White House gave a preview of the program by awarding the Appalachian Regional Commission $45 million in grants for economic stimulus.
Bill Price, the senior Sierra Club organizer in West Virginia, urged Congress to pass POWER+, which environmentalists hope signals the end of King Coal.
“As we transition to a clean energy economy, it is essential that we protect the health of our planet and the health of our communities,” Price said in a statement. “Congress should do everything in its power to help the coal communities and working families that have sacrificed for over a century to grow the American economy. They deserve nothing less.”
See the article here.
- On March 21, 2016