Front Porch Blog

Office of Surface Mining Ignores Governor Bredesen ‘s (D-TN) Request for EIS

Recently, particularly after the Sago mine disaster, states have been paying more attention to the effect that mining has on their lives, communities, and environment. West Virginia’s governor Joe Manchin wanted all mines shut down for safety reviews.

Tennessee Phil Bredesen (D-TN)

also filed a request with the Office of Surface Mining, requesting that the OSM Reclamation and Enforcement develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the effects of coal mining on Tennessee.

The OSM also received similar requests from Paul Sloan (Deputy Commissioner, TN Department of Environment and Conservation) and Gary Myers (Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.)

In response to these requests for an assessment of their actions, and the results thereof, the OSM respectfully flipped Governor Bredesen, Commissioner Sloan, and Executive Director Myers the bird.

After receiving Governor Bredesen’s request for an EIS, the Office of Surface Mining sent back a reply telling the governor that they weren’t interested in letting people know what they do, how it effects Tennessee, and that they would rather keep it secret.

Here are some exerpts from the OSM reply to Governor Bredesen…

I appreciate your concern regarding the impacts of coal mining in your State and your interest in its proper regulation. However, after careful review, we have determined that preparing a comprehensive programmatic EIS to address all Federal regulation of coal mining in Tennessee under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) is neither warranted nor appropriate.

So, the coal mining wants to keep their actions secret, doesn’t want any accountability, and wants us to give them the power to police themselves while they run rampant around law and order.

While we have confidence in our Tennessee Federal program and our compliance with NEPA, we believe strongly that the most effective way to achieve the goals outlined in your letters would be for Tennessee to resume State regulatory authority, consistent with the role envisioned for all States in SMCRA. Of the 25 coal-producing States, Tennessee is one of only two that do not have primacy. By implementing a State program, the citizens and government of Tennessee could directly address the concerns raised in your letter in ways that best meet the needs and interests of Tennessee.

Somehow…I still don’t think that the OSM wants coal companies to be held accountable. (See the Jack Spadaro interview in the upcoming issue of the Voice)

I am encouraged by your interest in the regulation of surface coal mining, and we at OSM are ready to assist Tennessee in taking the future of coal mine regulation into its own hands.

What are all these little red flags I am seeing?!

I commend you for your leadership and concern for the long-term welfare of the people and the environment of Tennessee. We also appreciate the good working relationship that we have with TDEC staff, and we will continue to work with the State as we fulfill our responsibilities under the Tennessee Federal program.


Brent Wahlquist

Brent also lists his numbers. How convenient!

Brent Wahlquist – 202-208-4006

He also suggests that folks might want to call Tim Dieringer, the Knoxville Field Manager at – 865-545-4103.




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