MINING AND RECLAMATION ADVISORY BOARD

October 15, 1998

Delaware Room, 16th Floor RCSOB

Harrisburg, PA

 

Members in attendance: Fred Wolf, Chairman; Jack Chamberlin; David Strong; George Ellis; Mike Young; Duane C. Feagley, Sue Germanio; Walter Heine; Dr. Brian Redmond; Ron Ramsey; Sue Wilson.

Others in attendance: Greg Barchey; Josh First, Nathan Gillette; Charles Miller; John Uzupis; Tim Ditzler; Robert Dolence; Rod Fletcher; Dave Hogeman; Michelle Miller; Bo Reiley; Marc Roda; Dan Romage; Doug Saylor; Evan Shuster; Steve Taglang; Alan Tamin; Pam Witmer.

The meeting was called to order at 10:00 a.m.

Chairman Wolf opened the meeting and introduced those in attendance.

Minutes of the July 9 Ė 10, 1998 full board quarterly meeting were briefly discussed. Mike Young recommended a correction to the minutes pertaining to a motion that was passed. The vote was 4:2, rather than 5:2.

On side four (pages not numbered) under New Agenda Items, Chater86, Unsuitable for Mining Regulations, paragraph three should read as follows

"Dave Osikowicz made a motion reading, ĎThe MRAB recommends to the Department, that the Department consider limiting the time to hold the public hearing to nine months in place of the existing ten month allowance.í Mike Young seconded the motion. The motion passed with four votes for, two votes against."

David Strong moved that the minutes be accepted as corrected. It was seconded by Dr. Redmond. MOTION CARRIED.

Reclaim PA - Update

HB 2611

DEPís Legislative Liaison, Pam Witmer, explained the bill is presently in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and has not moved. The committee is not going to take up consideration of the bill for the remainder of the session; it will be reintroduced at the start of the next session in January 1999.

There is broad interest and support for the bill but the Department wants to get more volunteer groups involved. No source of funding has been identified yet.

Reclaim PA Program/Executive Summary - General Overview

Dave Hogeman, the Co-Leader of Reclaim PA, reviewed that the Executive Summary and the Initiative Report were updated in July and briefing material on the program was provided to the Governorís Office.

Under Reclaim PA, 16 program initiatives have been identified and are being developed. The initiatives fall into four categories and each category has its specific initiatives.

Key developments over the past several months include:

Government-Financed Construction Contracts: Implementation procedures have been developed and staff training has been accomplished. The Department recently provided some additional statutory information to OSM and it is awaiting OSM approval.

Areas Suitable for Remining Program: Implementation procedures have been developed which are currently undergoing additional staff review

Pennsylvaniaís Comprehensive Plan for Abandoned Mine Reclamation: The Department has been meeting with most of the agencies that are involved in funding rehabilitation plan development. With the help of several of the bureaus in DEP, OSM, NRCS, and two watershed coalitions the Department has developed the universal watershed rehab plan format. The rehab plan will be in a form that will satisfy the needs of any funding agency.

In this yearís state budget, $100,000 was provided for AMD watershed support groups and DEP is in the process of developing contracts with the Eastern and Western Coalitions to provide them each with $50,000 to be used to support development of watershed groups involved in AMD activities.

After a brief discussion about the integration of components of the recommendations of the 21st Century Commission into the Reclaim PA program, George Ellis made the following motion:

"I move that the Department review the appropriate recommendations concerning AML in the 21st Century Report and integrate components into its Reclaim PA proposal and also identify which of those recommendations need legislative authorization and present them to the board at the next meeting for our consideration."

It was seconded by Jack Chamberlin. MOTION CARRIED.

On behalf of the Board, Chairman Wolf thanked Department staff and the board for all the time spent on this initiative and for ending up with a product that benefits the environment and acceptable to all of us including the federal Office of Surface Mining.

Design Based Standards

Filling in for Don Barnes who could not be present, Dave Hogeman explained that this pilot program was developed with great cooperation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The intent is to encourage the coal industry to remine sites with pre-existing discharges by shifting the monitoring points from the discharges to a downstream point. This program will be limited to eight sites; four or five are presently being considered, but there is no given commitment at this point. The sites must meet certain criteria the most important of which that there be a high likelihood of improvement. Advertisement is informal with the district mining offices getting the word out primarily. No Request for Proposals (RFPs) are being put out; implementation will be through Consent Orders and Agreements initially. It is hoped that the operators who are concerned about using the conventional Subchapter F permit will find this approach more appealing.

Deputy Secretary Dolence provided a brief overview of the Departmentís "Post Mortem Study" which statistically supports the design based standards concept. The purpose of the study was to assess past mining sites to determine the success rate of permitting activities in the last 10 to 12 years. The permits reviewed in detail were ones that resulted in post mining noncompliant discharges. The Department, with a supporting role by OSMís Appalachian Regional Office, found the overall success rate to be greater than 98%, with the success rate over the last four years to be even greater than 99%.

Bark Camp

Paul Linnan had a schedule conflict and was not able to attend the MRAB meeting. Deputy Secretary Dolence explained the Perth Amboy activity has been completed and the contractor, CTI, has done testing at the site. The Department is following up with its own testing of the material in place. The site remains in excellent condition. The contractor, CTI, is anticipating the next activity in February of 1999.

The Department is also working with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to obtain local lake silt for use at Bark Camp. DCNR is dredging the lake at Parker Dam State Park and has limited use for the material. DEP is testing the material to assure it meets the Bark Camp quality criteria.

Two technical issues continue to be discussed; the operation of the facility in freezing temperatures and the need to scarify the hard material prior to soil placement.

Michelle Miller is working with the contractor CTI to get additional copies of its report on the Perth Amboy reclamation activity. The MRAB Chairperson, Fred Wolf, was provided a copy for review.

 

Public Input Ė Selection of Watersheds for Restoration

Under the Comprehensive Plan for Abandoned Mine Reclamation certain projects are picked and not all of the public understands why they were picked or agrees with those decisions. If the public were more involved with those decisions, perhaps it would take away a lot of the mistrust or uncertainty of support for BAMR. For those reasons, the Board was asked to consider a new approach to increasing public participation in the selection of watersheds for restoration. Rather than involve watershed groups and advocacy groups in the initial worth determinations, involve them later in the review of the worth determinations. The groups would actually have the ability to change the worth determinations previously made by the Department. This would minimize the time required by public volunteers to participate in this review and would inspire trust in the process. The recommendations made by these groups would not be legally binding but would carry a lot of weight.

Dr. Redmond moved that the MRAB endorse the concept as described by Deputy Secretary Dolence. It was seconded by Dave Strong. MOTION CARRIED.

After some discussion, it was suggested that the MRAB be represented on this ad hoc group since restoration and reclamation our probably the Boardís main roles.

Dr. Redmondís motion was amended to include a member of the MRAB in the review process. MOTION CARRIED.

At the request of Dave Strong, the Department will submit to the MRAB for comment any drafts that are developed that address public participation.

 

Annual Report

The Annual Report is in draft form. Ms. Miller will be refining it before presenting it to the Annual Report Committee which will meet later in November.

Reclamation Enhancement Using Biosolids

Doug Saylor from the Hawk Run District mining Office gave a presentation that reflected his experiences regulating the use of biosolids in mine reclamation. Biosolids are the processed solids or the sludge from a wastewater treatment plant. They are what has to be dealt with after the treatment. Although there is a lot of debate about how safe it is to use biosolids, they are in fact very stringently monitored. There is tremendous potential for their use in mine reclamation, particularly on sites having minimal amounts of topsoil. The Department is finding that biosolids outperform chemical fertilizers and lime in the revegetation of these areas. Water monitoring of biosolid projects shows improvements in the water quality. Biosolids are inexpensive to use and greatly reduce the cost of reclamation. The improvements are noticeable and long-term.

 

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund

Deputy Secretary Dolence stated that progress is being reported on the increase of funding from the AMR fund. Governor Ridge convinced the National Governorsí Association to pass a unanimous resolution urging Congress to release the unappropriated dollars for their intended use. An NGA resolution on a matter that does not involve all states was explained as a significant accomplishment.

The OSM Fact Sheet and the Departmentís response letter were briefly discussed. Again, at issue was that Pennsylvania did not receive an additional $7.5 million for AML reclamation. The monies were just rolled over from one grant year to the next. The environment did not realize any gains contrary to the insinuations of OSMís fact sheet. OSMís attempt to explain this in a subsequent letter was provided to the MRAB.

 

New Business

Mountaintop Removal

Deputy Secretary Dolence discussed the recent attention given to the mountaintop top removal technique used in surface coal mining. As the name suggests, it is the removal of the top of a mountain to reach the coal seam(s); then overburden is deposited in lower elevations of contiguous valleys. Mountaintop removal is practiced predominantly in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

Mountaintop removal is NOT practiced in Pennsylvania. The two primary reasons for this are our regulations addressing approximate original contour are not easily adapted to mountaintop removal and the geology and topography of our coal regions do not lend themselves to this type of mining.

The relationship between Clean Air Act (CAA) amendments, utility compliance and mining impacts were explored. Utilities look at their optimum alternative for complying with Phase II of the CAA amendments. For many facilities, fuel switching to low sulfur coal in combination with the purchase of SO2 allowances was the best option. This resulted in the low sulfur coal reserves demanding a premium. To offset higher transportation costs, the economies of scale were employed with mountaintop removal. Thus, low sulfur coals from southern West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia compete against moderate and higher sulfur coals in Pennsylvania.

Although we do not have mountaintop removal in Pennsylvania, the regulatory outcomes in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia could have a great impact on Pennsylvania in the future. It is suspected that the federal regulatory agencies are going to put more restraints on the operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. This will force the utilities to rethink their compliance strategies and may result in earlier entries of scrubbers in the northeast. The construction of scrubbers makes Pennsylvania coal more competitive from a cost perspective. If this plays out, it could jump start reclamation through remining. That is, the potential down the road for having more remining in Pennsylvania and more remining means more AML acres reclaimed at no cost to the taxpayer.

 

RAMP Program

Per a recent article in the Update, the Rural Abandoned Mine reclamation program (RAMP) is being supported by Secretary Seif. The whole fund wonít be released for awhile but there will be a substantial increase to all the AML states if the proposed budget gets passed. The RAMP funds are not to go to salaries or administrative overhead as before and the selection of projects will be smart choices, not political choices. Decision making will be at the local level and Conservation Districts will be playing a very vital role in the process.

Ad Hoc Committee

The Ad Hoc Committee will try to visit Bark Camp before winter sets in.

Annual Report Committee

The Annual Report committee will meet in the beginning of November.

Next Meeting Date and Location

Date: January 14, 1999

Location: Harrisburg, PA

Adjournment

Dave Strong moved that the meeting be adjourned. It was seconded by Michael Young. The meeting adjourned at 1:15 p.m.