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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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