Murray says OSM’s new stream rule would kill longwall mining of coal

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s proposed Stream Protection Rule would severely damage the coal mining industry with little in the way of positive benefits for the environment, said Robert Murray, CEO of coal producer Murray Energy, at a Sept. 10 OSM “listening session” on this rule in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Murray noted that his Murray Energy is the largest underground coal mining company in the U.S., employs over 7,000 people, and currently operates 17 active underground coal mines in five states.

“The Obama Administration’s so-called Stream Protection Rule (‘Rule’) is the single greatest threat to the jobs and family livelihoods of our employees that I have seen in my fifty-eight (58) years of coal mining experience,” said Murray. “This Rule bans underground coal mining by the longwall and other methods beneath dry ditches on the surface. In doing so, the Obama Administration, its radical bureaucrats and Democrat supporters, have, with this rule, yet again, acted illegally, and with the deliberate intent to destroy our nation’s underground coal mines and put our nation’s coal miners out of work.

“With this intended destruction of America’s coal industry, low cost, reliable coal-fired electricity will be eliminated (four cents per KWH compared to wind and solar at twenty-two cents per KWH at the bussbar). This will force huge electricity cost increases on our citizens and businesses and jeopardize the reliability of our power grid.

“From personal experience, we know what President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Director of the Office of Surface Mining (‘OSM’) Mr. Joseph Pizarchik, are up to with this Rule. You see Mr. Pizarchik, in conjunction with the current Democrat candidate to the United States Senate from Pennsylvania, Ms. Kathleen A. McGinty, did the exact same thing to Murray Energy, when they closed the Maple Creek Mining, Inc. High Quality Mine, in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania on November 10, 2004. At that time, Mr. Pizarchik, a lawyer, was acting as the Chief Enforcement Officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (‘PaDEP’) and Ms. McGinty was the Secretary of the PaDEP. We received a full, legally binding permit from the PaDEP in 2001 to mine the entire Maple Creek reserve by the longwall method over many years. Based on this permit from the PaDEP, we hired 550 employees and spent $130 million in building the Mine.

“But, on November 10, 2004, nearly four (4) years later, after mining four (4) longwall panels, at the direction of Mr. Pizarchik and Ms. McGinty, the PaDEP, through a telephone call to me, closed the Mine at the fifth (5th) longwall panel, the next to be mined, that they claimed was beneath an ‘ephemeral stream.’ It was really a dry ditch that seldom had water in it. We were forced to close the Mine and lay off the 550 employees, most of whom were older and never worked again. Further, we have been paying interest on every penny of the $130 million that we borrowed to build the Mine since that call on November 10, 2004.

“In promulgating this Rule, Mr. Pizarchik, Interior Secretary Jewell, and Mr. Obama, along with Ms. McGinty, who have all demonstrated that they are job killers, are seeking to impose across the national coal industry what they did to my employees, Company, and me in Pennsylvania nearly eleven (11) years ago.

“Beware America, this Rule is a radical attempt to close down all underground mining, particularly by the longwall method, in America. Underground longwall mining is the most environmentally acceptable way that there is to mine coal.”

The proposed rule, announced by OSM on July 16 and published on July 27, would modernize rules that are 32 years old in order to better protect people, water quality, and the environment from the adverse effects of coal mining, OSM has said. It has scheduled six public listening sessions in September on the proposed rule, including the one in Pittsburgh.

The proposed rule changes include:

  • Define the term “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area” and require that each permit establish the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water reach an unacceptable level; i.e., the point at which adverse impacts from mining would cause material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.
  • Set forth how to collect adequate premining data about the site of the proposed mining operation and adjacent areas to establish a comprehensive baseline that will facilitate evaluation of the effects of mining operations.
  • Set forth how to conduct effective, comprehensive monitoring of groundwater and surface water during and after both mining and reclamation and during the revegetation responsibility period to provide real-time information documenting mining-related changes in water quality and quantity.
  • Address the need for required monitoring of the biological condition of streams during and after mining and reclamation to evaluate changes in aquatic life. Proper monitoring would enable timely detection of any adverse trends and allow timely implementation of any necessary corrective measures.
  • Promote the protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, especially the headwater streams that are critical to maintaining the ecological health and productivity of downstream waters.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.