Changes to coal mine permitting by DOGM
There are a few changes coming in Utah's coal regulatory program. An audit has been conducted by an audit team beginning June 1, 2007. The recommendations are now ready to go before the board of the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining later this month. John Baza, director of DOGM commented, "I would like to point out that although the audit report indicates improvement is needed in the Division's Coal Program, the program has an excellent history of environmental and public health and safety protection as there have been no major environmental incidents by the coal industry in Utah in the more than 25 years of the program's existence. Nevertheless, we are committed to re-think and re-create our processes and procedures to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness.
"I appreciate the opportunity to improve the Division's regulatory performace in the coal program. It is my objective to utilize the audit report to allow Division management and staff to be more proactive in addressing our responsibilities. We will now press forward to evaluate each of the recommendations and begin incorporating them into the coal program's processes and procedures," said Baza.
Susan White from DOGM gave a report on these audit recommendations at the Emery County Water Users meeting. There are 11 audit recommendations: 1. We recommend that division management follow Utah Administrative Rule R645-303-221 and complete a 15 day initial completeness review on all relevant permit changes. Management should track and monitor the 15 day review to ensure that it is consistently completed.
2.We recommend that division management adhere to required mandated deadlines and deny permit amendments that are incomplete.
3. We recommend that division management create a complete policy with water monitoring. This policy should contain procedures that will help ensure water-monitoring reports are timely reviewed. The division also needs to communicate with the coal operators on any deficiencies that are generated from the water reports within a specific time frame.
4. We recommend that division management create a policy and procedures for emergency permit approvals. The policy should specify a sufficient documentation level that can demonstrate the division's decision as not being arbitrary and capricious.
5. We recommend that division management create a policy and develop procedures to ensure annual reports are completed in a timely manner.
6. We recommend that division management utilize the CTS program or develop a similar management information system. Division management should carefully evaluate options that ensure techinical IT staff make the necessary changes to the coal tracking system to ensure the management has the capability to track the status of required tasks and functions. Other items that should be included are reports detailing workload analysis, priority rankings of projects, automated calculation of due dates and a function that automatically monitors deadlines.
7. We recommend that division management include in the governor's balanced scorecard all key performance indicators that can be measured to help the division better evaluate their overall performance.
8. We recommend that DOGM conform its interpretation of the permit area to the definition adopted by the federal Office of Surface Mining and clarified by the Board of Oil, Gas and Mining. If the division believes that the current inerpretation of the rules does not adequately protect environmental resources then it should seek clarification from the legislature and or BOGM.
9. We recommend that division management ensure the Utah Adminstrative rules are being consistently enforced. If the division management believes the rules need to be revised to better ensure the protection of environmental resources or public safety, then they should seek the appropriate approval from the legislature and/or the BOGM.
10. We recommend that DOGM utilize the following two approaches when requesting federal funding in the future. Request the OSM change the area weighted average formula to include disturbed and adjacent areas. Request federal funding based on the workload option.
11. We recommend that DOGM devise a fee structure and present it to the legislature for their consideration.
White said that recommendations eight and nine deal with how the division has been permitting coal mines and DOGM will begin permitting a different way. Water loss replacement will also be addressed. Recommendations 10 and 11 have to do with funding.
In the DOGM meeting it was also mentioned that UtahAmerican Energy is starting activity at Lila Canyon Mine. The permit was approved on May 18, 2007. SUWA appealed the permit, but when the board hearing was held the mining company prevailed. Jay Marshall from UtahAmerican said in November-2007 the center line for the road was put in to improve access and establish a better route. After the settlement, SUWA appealed through federal court. A stay was denied by Judge Kimball. On Jan. 2 cat work began with degrubbing the area. Work has continued two-three days a week depending on weather. It is moving forward. In federal court, SUWA attacked the Bureau of Land Management and the Office of Surface Mining saying they should never have issued a permit for Lila. Marshall is hopeful they won't be shut down again.
Work at Rilda Canyon has halted for the winter and a settlement pond will go in when the weather breaks.
Commissioner Gary Kofford asked Arch Coal representatives when they might move on the Cottonwood tract which was recently leased. Tom Faddies from SITLA said a company has 10 years to act on a lease, but by the sixth year a company must start paying royalties. It is expensive for a company to sit on a lease. SITLA coal leases go toward electrical production for the state of Utah.
Chris Hansen from SUFCO was questioned if he knew when the company would start to move on the lease and he said he doesn't know at this time.