On June 7, Alaska and more than 20 other states that mine coal as an important natural resource, filed a petition in U.S. District Court, District of Washington D.C., asking the court to vacate a recently adopted U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) rule that would severely undercut Alaska’s exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations within the state.

“In this new Final Rule, the Secretary is overthrowing a longstanding deference to States on State-regulated mining programs, Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a prepared statement. “It also seeks to make the federal government the first regulator. But worst of all, it requires the Secretary to ignore vital information from States that could verify or disprove whether violations exist.”

Alaska’s Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources John Boyle noted that Alaska has successfully exercised exclusive jurisdiction and oversight of the state’s coal regulatory program for more than 40 years.

“The DOI’s recently finalized ten-day notice rule subverts and convolutes the state’s preeminent role in overseeing Alaska’s coal industry by allowing those who oppose coal operations to effectively bypass DNR and seek alternative solutions from bureaucrats in Washington D.C.,” he observed. “Yet again, this astonishing example of federal overreach runs counter to the recognition and deference that is given to the States that best possess superior expertise and knowledge of local mining conditions.”

The DOI Final Rule amends the existing “Ten-Day Notice Rule,” which has always allowed DOI’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to become involved if states do not promptly respond to criticisms about coal mining operations or permit compliances. For decades, Alaska has worked cooperatively and successfully with OSM and the public under the rule – responding to notices, working with mine operators, and working with the concerned citizens.

In fact, OSM has praised Alaska for its regulatory practices with respect to both active mines and abandoned mine reclamation (restoration). Yet under the new Final Rule, OSM would prematurely insert itself into Alaska’s response actions, expand the circumstances in which OSM would interject itself and invite citizen complaints without requiring the interested citizen to notify the state.

The new rules, however, make it easier for citizens to go around state authorities to raise complaints about dust, noise, alleged water pollution and much more. If OSM determines there is a reason to believe a violation exists, the federal agency will give notice to the state regulatory authority, which has 10 days to respond back to OSM.

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Alaska fights Biden Admin’s ‘overreach’ with regard to coal mining rules

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


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