OSM issues enviro review on ban of some coal mining in Tennessee

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) will announce in the Dec. 11 Federal Register that the draft Petition Evaluation Document and Environmental Impact Statement (PED/EIS) for the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area petition to find certain lands unsuitable for surface coal mining is out for comment.

OSMRE will accept electronic or written comments within 45 days of the publication of this notice.

In September 2010, the state of Tennessee filed a petition with OSMRE to designate certain lands in the state as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations. These lands include the area within 600 feet of all ridge lines (a 1,200 foot corridor) lying within the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (NCWMA)—made up of the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area, the Sundquist Wildlife Management Area, and the New River Wildlife Management Area (also known as the Brimstone Tract Conservation Easement)—and the Emory River Tracts Conservation Easement (ERTCE).

The area under consideration for designation encompasses in total approximately 67,326 acres along 505 miles of ridgelines. OSMRE must process and make decisions on all petitions submitted to designate areas in the state as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations.

The petition includes two primary allegations with numerous allegations of fact and supporting statements.

  • In primary allegation 1, the petitioner contends that the petition area should be designated unsuitable for surface coal mining operations because surface coal mining in the area would be incompatible with existing state or local land use plans or programs.
  • In primary allegation 2, the petitioner contends that the OSMRE should designate the petition area as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations because such operations would affect fragile or historic lands, resulting in significant damage to important historic, cultural, scientific, and aesthetic values and natural systems.

The draft EIS currently considers in detail the following alternatives for action by the Secretary:

  • Alternative 1—do not designate any of the petition area as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations (no-action). There would be no change in types of permits applications accepted for evaluation. – Alternative 2—designate the entire petition area (67,326 acres) as unsuitable for all surface coal mining operations (state’s proposed action). No types of surface mining permits applications would be accepted for this area.
  • Alternative 3—designate the state petition area (67,326 acres) while allowing remining and road access (agency’s preferred alternative). The only acceptable types of permits would be permits for remining.
  • Alternative 4— grant an expanded corridor designation of independentlyidentified ridgelines within the petition area (76,133 acres) while allowing remining and road access. The only acceptable types of permits would be permits for remining.
  • Alternative 5—designate lands based on the presence of certain sensitive resources (12,331 acres). No types of surface mining permits would be accepted for this area.
  • Alternative 6—designate a reduced corridor of 600 feet (39,106 acres). No types of surface mining permits applications would be accepted for this area.

OSMRE has identified Alternative 3 as its preferred alternative.

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.