Saying it wanted to reduce burdens for coalfield community residents to report mining complaints or potential violations, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) has published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would modify the Ten-Day Notice (TDN) process. The agency has invited public comment on the proposed changes. All comments are due by June 26.

    OSM is proposing to amend regulations related to notifying state regulatory authorities of possible violations of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and corrective actions for state regulatory program issues. The agency is proposing a lot of changes and surface coal operators should take the time to read it and respond.

OSM is charged with carrying out the requirements of the SMCRA in cooperation with states and tribes. When it comes to regulating surface coal mining operations, however, many states have primacy, meaning they take the lead on inspections and the enforcement of regulations.

If citizens notify OSM of a potential violation of coal mining laws, the agency is supposed to send a TDN to alert the state regulatory authority about the potential violation. The state regulatory authority then has 10 days to respond.

OSM is proposing to remove the requirement that a citizen, when requesting a federal inspection, set forth “the basis for the person’s assertion that the state regulatory authority has not taken action with respect to the possible violation.” Basically, OSM would allow environmental groups to bypass the TDN process and initiate duplicative inspections. Moreover, OSM is proposing that all citizen complaints be considered requests for federal inspections, even if a citizen complaint does not specifically request an inspection.

Proposed changes to regulations addressing the TDN will make it easier for citizens to file a complaint. OSM said the changes would also clarify procedures for OSM to evaluate and process citizen allegations about possible SMCRA violations and clarify regulatory requirements of the TDN process. The agency also said the proposed TDN rule would minimize the duplication of inspections, enforcement, and administration of SMCRA. Rather than minimizing duplication, the agency should strive to eliminate duplication, which was the original intent of the TDN.