Tuesday, June 16, 2015

DEP Citizens Advisory Council Discusses Comments On Deep Coal Mining Impact Report

At its Tuesday meeting, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council began the discussion of its draft comments on DEP’s Act 54 report on the impact of underground coal mining with the intent of finalizing its comments at its July 21 meeting. 
Among the draft recommendations are--
-- Independent Review Committee: Asks Gov. Wolf to convene by Executive Order an independent, technical committee to review how streams impact by underground coal mining can be restored to pre-mining conditions in both water quality chemistry and biological characteristics.  The CAC notes that 8 of the 55 streams determined to be affected in the previous report (2003-2008) have yet to recover to pre-mining conditions.
-- Disclosure Of Restoration Measures: The CAC recommends Act 54 be amended to direct mine owners to disclose to DEP how water resources impacted by underground mining operations were restored or reclaimed through private landowner agreements.  Without this data, the Commonwealth is not in a position to adequately assess if the intent and purpose of Act 54 are being fulfilled.
-- Presumption Zone Should Be Increased: The 35 degree Rebuttable Presumption Zone, as provided in Section 5.2(c) of Act 54, should be reassessed by DEP through consultation with appropriate technical professionals.  With this recommendation, the CAC notes that 25 percent of mine-liable water supply effects were identified in the most recent Act 54 Report to lie outside the Rebuttable Presumption Zone, including as much as 850 outward and upward from the edge of mining.  
-- Eliminate Deadline For Water Restoration: The CAC believes it is appropriate the General Assembly revisit the provisions included in Act 54 that limit a mine operator’s liability to restore or replace a water supply if claims concerning water contamination, diminution or interruption do not occur within 2 years from the time the supply was adversely affected.  It is the CAC’s recommendation that liability be determined strictly based upon the final conclusions of any investigations by DEP regarding the claim.
-- Evaluation Of Compensation Timeframes: Section 5.1(g) of Act 54 specifies that compensation shall be provided to the landowner if an affected water supply is not restored or reestablished or a permanent alternate source is not provided within three years.  The CAC received comments and testimony from the public that claim resolutions are taking longer than statutorily prescribed, including that 4 stream investigations from the 3rd Act 54 assessment period remain unresolved and have been open for 7-8 years.   Given these reports, the CAC recommends the General Assembly investigate the resolution timeframes included in Act 54, why those timeframes are not being upheld, and whether those timeframes need to be amended based upon practical and historical experience.
-- DEP Should Be Notified Of Water Supply Issues: Section 5.2 of Act 54 requires a landowner or water user to notify the mine operator when water supply contamination, diminution or interruption has occurred.  The CAC recommends the General Assembly reassess the adequacy of this requirement, including whether it is appropriate that DEP be notified at the same time a mine operator is notified, so that DEP, if necessary, can initiate an independent analysis of impacts on water resources, consistent with its obligations under the Clean Streams Law.     
The CAC draft recommendation include 18 additional comments on other areas of the underground mining program including, DEP regulations, DEP permitting procedures, DEP resources for the program, particularly for data management systems, DEP policies and DEP public engagement and transparency.
The draft comments also include a list of 12 questions asked to clarify sections of the Act 54 report.
A copy of the CAC’s draft comments is available online.  A copy of the Act 54 report covering 2008 to 2013 is also available online.
The Citizens Advisory Council held two public hearings on the Act 54 report to help it develop its recommendations and comments, including one in Washington County.
NOTE: The Council will now hold its July 21 meeting as well as a new meeting on August 18.
For more information, visit the DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council webpage.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner