Thursday, May 4, 2017

House Bill Rolls Back Protections From Mine Operators Temporarily Suspending Operations

Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield) again introduced legislation this week-- House Bill 1333 (Gabler-R-Clearfield)-- that would eliminate the current DEP limit on temporarily ceasing surface coal mining operations of 180 days and replace it with the less stringent federal requirement that has no specific time frames.
This bill would allow surface coal mines to remain open and unreclaimed potentially for years since the term of permits varies with the size and complexity of the mining operations.  DEP’s regulations require the agency to review an active permit every five years.
Rep. Gabler said this measure was necessary because the Pennsylvania coal industry is experiencing severe economic hardships.
While the legislation says the mine operator remains responsible for all permit obligations, clearly in this economic climate for coal, this bill would give mine operators license to simply disappear without reclaiming the site.
In May of last year, the PA Environmental Council sent a letter to Gabler and then to all members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee expressing significant concerns with the legislation.
While recognizing the current market challenges faced by the coal industry, PEC said it was concerned about the risk of adding to Pennsylvania’s coal mining-related environmental liabilities if appropriate safeguards are not put in place during the cessation of operations.
Without these safeguards, PEC said, these liabilities could ultimately be borne by Commonwealth taxpayers if an operator elects not to restart mining activity or declares bankruptcy.
There were no changes made to the legislation in response to PEC’s concerns.
A sponsor summary is available.
Related Story:
PEC Expresses Significant Concerns With Bill To Temporarily Suspend Mining Operations

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