U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, sent an April 2 letter to U.S. Office of Surface Mining head Joseph Pizarchik, requesting documents and information regarding the development of the environmental review documents for the new Stream Protection Rule (SPR).
They noted that state agencies have alleged that OSM has “not provided for meaningful participation in the process,” which is required by regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s own regulations. This long-pending rule, also known as the stream buffer zone rule, has to do with tightening standards on what and how much coal mine waste material can be placed in buffer zones around streams.
The letter stated: “Consistently failing to include cooperating agencies throughout the EIS drafting process – and then making a disingenuous offer to ‘update’ the states after the rule has already been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget – is grossly insufficient and does not satisfy OSM’s legal obligations as the lead agency.”
The letter added: “Despite these regulations, which clearly give cooperating agencies the right to ongoing participation, [Interior] Secretary [Sally] Jewell recently testified that the states would have an opportunity to comment on the Stream Protection Rule ‘when [the] rule is released and we’re in the public comment period.’”
“Secretary Jewell’s testimony and your March 17, 2015 letter exemplify the Department’s blatant refusal to include the cooperating agencies, as the regulations require.”
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., and Committee Member Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., also signed the letter. On March 18, subcommittee Chairman Lamborn questioned Pizarchik about the matter during the subcommittee’s OSM budget hearing.