Front Porch Blog

OSMRE Releases New Details on Stream Rule

With this mornings Notice of Intent for an Environmental Impact Statement (.pdf), the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement give a few new details on their intended change to stream protections in regards to surface mining.

In their words, the principle elements of the proposed action include –
• Adding more extensive and more specific permit application requirements concerning baseline data on hydrology, geology, and aquatic biology; the determination of the probable hydrologic consequences of mining; and the hydrologic reclamation plan; as well as more specific requirements for the cumulative hydrologic impact assessment.

• Defining the term “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.” This term is critically important because, under section 510(b)(3) of SMCRA, the regulatory authority may not approve a permit application unless the proposed operation has been designed to prevent material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area. This term includes streams downstream of the mining operation.

• Revising the regulations governing mining activities in or near streams, including mining through streams.

• Adding more extensive and more specific monitoring requirements for surface water, groundwater, and aquatic biota during mining and reclamation.

• Establishing corrective action thresholds based on monitoring results.

• Revising the backfilling and grading rules, excess spoil rules, and approximate original contour restoration requirements to incorporate landform restoration principles and reduce discharges of total dissolved solids.

• Limiting variances and exceptions from approximate original contour restoration requirements.

• Requiring reforestation of previously wooded areas.

• Requiring that the regulatory authority coordinate the SMCRA permitting process with Clean Water Act permitting activities to the extent practicable.

• Codifying the financial assurance provisions of OSM’s March 31, 1997, policy statement2 on correcting, preventing, and controlling acid/toxic mine drainage and clarifying that those provisions apply to all long-term discharges of pollutants, not just pollutants for which effluent limitations exist.

• Updating the definitions of perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams.




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