The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) published a proposed rule that it said will streamline regulatory coordination of alleged violations at surface mining sites. Oftentimes, violations are investigated by both the OSM and the state. The new rule offers steps to streamline coordination between state and federal regulatory agencies to reduce this inefficiency. It also requires state regulators to respond to allegations and issue corrective action as needed, within 10 days.

OSM will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, June 15. The comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov. In the search box, enter RIN 1029-AC77, which is the docket number for this proposed rulemaking.

As set forth in section of the Surface mining Reclamation and Control Act (SMCRA), Congress requires OSM to, among other responsibilities, “cooperate with … State regulatory authorities to minimize duplication of inspections, enforcement, and administration of this Act.”

The proposed rule would clarify regulations to state that, before issuing a notification to a state regulatory authority when a possible violation exists, OSM will consider any information readily available.

Furthermore, the proposed rule would clarify the meaning of the statutory terms “appropriate action” and “good cause,” to describe the state regulatory authority’s action or inaction after OSM notifies the state regulatory authority that a possible violation exists. Examples of what constitutes appropriate action and good cause exist in the regulations; however, OSM said the example explanations are not exhaustive and do not fully reflect the array of in-the-field scenarios.

Within the context of evaluating whether a state regulatory authority has taken appropriate action with respect to a possible violation, OSMRE has observed that not all state regulatory program issues OSM identifies warrant a federal inspection, but may require further evaluation. To address these issues, the proposed revision would add procedures for corrective action of state regulatory program issues, including implementation of action plans. The proposed revisions also include adding definitions of the terms “action plan” and “state regulatory program issue” and introducing a mechanism for early identification and corrective action to address state regulatory program issues.

OSM said it has developed each of the proposed modifications and clarifications in close coordination with state regulatory authorities.