03.06.12

Mole Hills out of Mountains & Our Pain Their Gain Mountains Destroyed for Coal Shipped Overseas

Markey, Holt Release Report on Baseless Republican Investigation on Mountaintop Removal Rulemaking

WASHINGTON (March 6, 2012) – Republican allegations that the Department of Interior has acted improperly in preparing a new rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining are without merit, according to a report released today by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The report, which was prepared by the Committee’s Democratic staff at the request of Markey and Holt, provides internal Interior Dept. documents refuting Republican allegations that the Office of Surface Mining has “recklessly rushed” its rulemaking and that it inappropriately separated from a contractor hired to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the rule.

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The report, titled “Molehills Out of Mountains,” is available on the Natural Resources Democratic website HERE

It was released at a hearing today in the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Affairs that featured testimony by Joe Pizarchik, director of the Interior Dept.’s Office of Surface Mining.

“Instead of wasting time and taxpayer money investigating the Interior Department’s decision to separate from an underperforming contractor, Democrats believe we should focus on the need for a new Stream Protection Rule,” Markey said. “Waste from mountaintop removal mining has buried hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams. The current rule must be strengthened to protect Appalachian communities and prevent coal companies from using the region’s streams as their dumping ground. The Republicans’ baseless investigation is a distraction from that effort.”

“Let's be clear. Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee oppose any and all safeguards that would prevent mining companies from dumping waste in Appalachian waterways,” said Rep. Holt. “This report demonstrates that the Office of Surface Mining has been acting responsibly and following all the standard procedures in this rulemaking. The Majority's baseless investigation is simply a sideshow designed to distract the American public from the dangers posed by mountaintop removal mining.”

The Democratic staff report specifically found that:

•    OSM has acted responsibly in developing the new Stream Protection Rule. Republicans charge that OSM has rushed its stream protection rulemaking, and that it has not provided opportunity for input from outside the agency. Yet OSM still has not even issued a proposed rule after two years of evaluating the issue and gathering broad stakeholder input. Moreover, OSM received more than 32,000 comments on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which OSM was under no requirement to publish.

•    OSM provided appropriate instructions to the contractor preparing the Environmental Impact Statement. OSM instructed Polu Kai Services not to share drafts of the proposed rule or Environmental Impact Statement with outside parties such as coal companies. Republicans claim this instruction violated OSM’s “Statement of Work” rules for the contract because the Statement of Work authorized contact with coal companies. In fact, the Statement of Work specifically instructed the contractor that documents could not be disseminated without written approval of the OSM contracting officer (something Republicans have not acknowledged). OSM wanted the contractor to obtain information from coal companies but not to share deliberative documents prior to the publishing of a proposed rule. The instruction was consistent not only with the Statement of Work but with long-standing rulemaking practice under the Administrative Procedure Act.

•    OSM had sound reasons for separating from the EIS contractor. Committee Republicans have charged that OSM ended its relationship with Polu Kai Services before the EIS was complete because an unfinished draft EIS chapter projected job losses from a possible new rule. However, documents show that OSM had concerns about the contractor’s overall performance, and that these concerns were expressed well before the job estimates were done. What’s more, mining state officials and technical experts from other federal agencies and within OSM were all harshly critical of the contractor’s work, characterizing draft EIS chapters as “inaccurate,” “incomplete,” “erroneous,” “incorrect,” and “insufficient.” There were even apparent instances of plagiarism identified.

Markey Releases Report on Increase in Coal Exports

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2012) – An analysis of coal mine data released today shows that coal exports have exploded from Appalachian operations over the last few years, with some mines exporting 100 percent of their coal abroad. The report, prepared by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee, at the direction of Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), calls into question the benefits to America to allow destructive mining practices to continue if that coal is going to subsequently be shipped to foreign nations like China.

The report, “Our Pain, Their Gain” is available HERE. The report analyzed data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and included self-reported data from the mines themselves.

Some of the top findings of the report include:

--The number of mountaintop removal, steep slope and surface mines exporting coal from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia increased from 73 mines in 2008 to 97 in 2011.

--Coal exports from these mines in these four states have grown by 91 percent since 2009 to 13.2 million tons in 2011.

--25 of those mines exported more than half of their production in 2011. One Russian company is exporting nearly 83 percent of the coal from three mines in West Virginia, and five mines are shipping 100 percent of their coal abroad.

--Overall, these 97 mines exported 27 percent of their production in 2011, more than doubling from 13 percent exported in 2008.

“American families are being subjected to coal mine pollution and damage, just so exports to China and other foreign nations can increase,” said Rep. Markey, who is the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee. “The coal may be shipped to foreign markets, but the diseases, the destroyed mountaintops, and the environmental ruin from these destructive practices are staying right here in America.”

The report comes as Republicans and the coal industry are attempting to beat back safeguards that would protect communities from coal mining pollution, including a hearing held today by the Natural Resources Republicans to attack rules that would protect streams and drinking water from mining operation pollution.

The export issue is not isolated in the Appalachian region, as coal companies mining in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming are angling to vastly increase coal exports.

Highlights from June 1, 2012 Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Oversight Hearing on Coal Mine Permits

Rep. Markey: The Truth About Coal - Innovation and Competition

Coal CEOs Said NO to Saving Jobs

Maria Gunnoe Opening Statement

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