The U.S. Office of Surface Mining should beef up its regulation of mountaintop removal mining, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said during a congressional hearing last week.
OSM Director Kathy Karpan appeared before the House Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources during an annual budget hearing Thursday.
Rahall told Karpan that, "This has been a very troubling year in the coalfields of Southern West Virginia.
"With mountaintop removal mining operations becoming increasingly larger, both OSM and the Corps of Engineers ... were unprepared and unable to cope with the regulatory demands operations of this nature placed on them," Rahall said.
Rahall added that, "OSM's oversight of the state regulatory program in this area was found to be nonexistent."
Last year, a series of Gazette articles revealed that most mountaintop removal permits issued by the state Division of Environmental Protection did not contain required approximate original contour variances or post-mining land use development plans.
The series also noted that OSM had never studied the issue, and that its annual reviews of the DEP did not pick up on the improper permits being issued.
A draft OSM report released in December conceded most of the series' findings. The report has not been finalized, and OSM has taken no action to fix the problems.
"Post-mining land uses were being permitted that were a violation of the letter, or if not that, certainly the intent of [the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act] and OSM by perhaps every account but its own failed to provide adequate guidance on one of the most critical reclamation standards of the law: What constitutes approximate original contour," Rahall said.
In her prepared remarks to the subcommittee, Karpan mentioned mountaintop removal once.