As the coal industry declines, companies are delaying cleanup of damaged land and water at mines that are no longer producing coal, putting communities at risk. When mine cleanup is delayed, surrounding communities are at risk of landslides, mudslides, falling boulders and water pollution.
Lack of action from state agencies and the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is allowing this problem to grow. The Biden Administration promised strong action on environmental justice, climate change and supporting coal communities, but more than two years into the president’s term, the agency that oversees coal mining and reclamation is still without a director and has yet to take any action to ensure timely reclamation at failing mines.
Sign our petition and tell President Biden: Nominate a director for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and ensure coal mine cleanup!
As the coal industry declines, companies are delaying reclamation of mines that are no longer producing coal, putting communities at risk. When mine reclamation is delayed, surrounding communities are at risk of landslides, mudslides, falling boulders and water pollution. State agencies and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement are failing to enforce reclamation laws, and bonding systems are inadequate to ensure a back-up source of funding for reclamation after companies go bankrupt.
We, the undersigned community members impacted by coal mining and their allies, request that you prioritize and expedite the appointment of a permanent director for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), and take necessary steps to strengthen enforcement of existing reclamation laws, including:
1) Establish a nationwide inventory of reclamation liabilities, evaluating all coal mines for reclamation needs and costs;
2) Discontinue use of self-bonding and pool bonding, and ensure that bonds cover the full cost of mine reclamation, including long term water treatment;
3) Make sure reclamation happens in a timely manner to ensure lands and waters are restored by the end of the economic life of the mine;
4) Reform the Applicant/Violator System to ensure that bad actors cannot receive new mining permits, and that companies cannot offload permits to companies that may not be able to reclaim them;
5) Require updated mine reclamation and closure plans, and disallow the use of temporary cessation status beyond a three-year period.
When you took office more than two years ago, you made a commitment to help coal-impacted communities transition to a clean energy economy, establishing a new interagency working group to support coal-impacted communities, and prioritizing funding for coal community and mine land revitalization. The goals you set out for environmental justice and an equitable transition in coal mining communities cannot be met without strong leadership at the agency responsible for ensuring the environmental health and safety of those communities.
Please act quickly to appoint a strong leader as director of OSMRE, and strengthen bonding and reclamation regulations and enforcement to ensure mines are cleaned up.