Front Porch Blog

Former Coal Regulator Shows How Little He Knows About Coal Regulation


A proud former coal regulator should know that miles of Appalachian streams have been buried in mountaintop removal waste. But North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer claims dumping mining waste into streams is illegal.

One might assume that the House Natural Resources committee would be tired of holding hearings on the Stream Buffer Zone Rule after the fifth or sixth time, especially since the rule has yet to be introduced. But one would be mistaken. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the GOP-led committee is sure they are on to something.

Last Thursday’s hearing provided an opportunity for the committee members to question Robert Knox of the Office of the Inspector General on its recent report concerning the Office of Surface Mining and their rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone.

The Inspector General’s office basically found that there was nothing to find. OSM is rewriting the rule and politics have not influenced job estimates. As could be expected, the thorough and public report released before the hearing provided the same information that Knox provided at the hearing, and, as could be expected, the Republicans on the committee are still not satisfied. They want a scandal, and by jove, they’ll get one, evidence be damned.

The hearing did provide one enlightening moment: North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He was, as he put it, a “coal regulator” in North Dakota for ten years. Yet he believes, and smugly pointed out to his colleagues on the committee, that current stream protections are sufficient and dumping mining waste into streams is illegal.

To be clear, more than 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried or poisoned by the valley fills associated with mountaintop removal mining. The 2008 rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone and the Bush fill rule of 2002, both allowed for increased dumping of mining waste into intermittent and ephemeral streams.

It’s not fair to expect each member of congress to be an expert on every issue, but a former coal regulator should know this stuff. Watch Cramer attempt to make the case that his colleagues and the millions of Americans concerned about mining wastes impacts on streams are worked up over nothing.

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2 Comments

  1. Jimmy W. Hall, Sr. on January 18, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    FROM UP ON MILL CREEK
    I am not an expert but it was not hard to see that the regulations put in place on a Federal, State and Local level are not working “Up On Mill Creek” in Letcher County Kentucky. We are located in one of Appalachia’s most remote coal regions, our own third world country within the United States.

    In responding to your attempt to alter the Stream Saver Bill, could you take a look at just how the regulations are working in the State of Kentucky, and with hope that you would concentrate your efforts into taking over the duties of the permitting process, the reclamation process, monitoring of all illegal mining operations that have been identified and hold true the purpose of these regulations to protect the people.
    Let’s start with the NWP 21 program. Does not seem to work very well for us Up On Mill Creek. We have boxes of documentation to back up what I say, just seems no one is listening. Mill Creek is one of three headwaters in Letcher County Kentucky. This river flows into the North Fork of the Kentucky River, the Tennessee and then the Mississippi River. We have found evidence that the proper 404 permits have not been issued and the headwater was removed over 10 years ago. In my files there are records from the Army Corp of Engineers and from the Kentucky Department of Water stating these permits do not exist. We have been reporting this to the Department of Mines, Department of Water, to E.P.A., O.S.M.R.E., even went to N.E.J.A.C. even to Atlanta a few times and have made several trips to Washington to your offices to let you know what was going on in these Appalachian Mountains, and now looks like all over the country will be affected.

    We met with the Director of the Kentucky Department of Water and brought this to his attention several weeks ago and we have yet to be notified of the results. When he was handed documents from his office, one stating the permit was required, three days later a supervisor went over the first persons head and said it was not necessary. We have several documents where these types of overlooking the facts have taken place in association with my property and others in this area. The permit in mind is an active permit, #867-0473, the one they got caught off permit, actually stole the coal right under my nose as I stood watching. The inspector stated that his records stated that Consol Coal owned my property as the mountain fell in to the valleys and streams below. Then they released the bonds and walked away with the blessings from the State of Kentucky. Later is was discovered this is just a little piece of the illegal actions that the State of Kentucky has allowed the coal companies to get away with in this state. My mountain home has been destroyed and left for even further damage should these regulations be changed.

    Seems Consol Coal wanted to hide the fact that I was owner release the protective bonds required under S.M.A.C.R.A., a hollow in without the proper drainage being installed, approved the release of vent pipes still in the mountain as to release bonds, change the reclamation plan or MRPs from forestland to industrial and with fish and wildlife, change the original contour or AOC, buy removing the entire back side of my mountain. , installed illegal in stream filtering ponds in our creeks, leaving ponds behind, they even stole 117 acres by claiming ownership from what I can see by filing false deeds, just moved it from the mountain range then opened an underground mine on a property Permit #867-5190. They did not own mineral rights to the other part of my land. They left us with highwalls, boulders the size of a bedroom falling on the benches, with sludge being removed from filtering ponds and just spread upon the land without proper linings as to contaminate our land and the air when the sludge dust settles, then into our water tables. Seeps of mine acid still flows into our creek fifty feet from my well and comes out in new places on this mountain as a regular event. My well tested 17 times the level permitted in private well by the S.D.W.A. One closed mine right on the highway has been spilling mine acid into our ditches, runs under the road and into the creek for well over a year and does continues to plague our little mining community of 100 families. Oh but there is so much more if you want to hear it.

    The S.D.W.A has failed us, we met all the requirements with 17 times the level of arsenic acceptable under the act. Our county judge took 2 million dollars that was issued for our community under a federal program for one purpose and moved it to supply water to his house and his neighbors and left us being poisoned for five years past the date it was issued. The state failed us, and now it appears so has our federal agencies. Not one bottle of water has been brought into in to our community. They said they could not find out who was responsible. This is not the in the regulations that are in the Act; they are to order the water be supplied to the people for drinking within 10 days, a buffalo tank for household use within 30 days and within one year a potable water supply in the houses paid for 20 years and provide the expenses associated with the process. We are mining impacted and just because the officials in Kentucky are covering up for the coal companies does not make it right, it makes it your responsibility to protect the people that have elected you into the office in which you have been trusted by the people and for the people. They have said we are not mining impacted and will not honor the S.D.W.A we filed in February of 2012 with EPA District 4. Someone needs to look at the facts, could this be the place?
    Today we have one case against the state of Kentucky and three coal companies on appeal, four open files at O.S.M.R.E., with two open citizens request for investigations at the Department of Mines. For now, it looks like we will be headed back to Washington in the spring the way these issues are beginning to grow and now no one seems to be watching what is going on.

    With this said, you may still plan on altering environmental justice and we will continue to fight for our people, our water and our mountains. When this water flows into your neighborhoods, may you sleep well at night.



  2. Cynthia Justice on January 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Why are people like this not fired immediately? In private business, they would be. NOT that I am for privatizing Anything!



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