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Question:Enforcement on inactive permits?

ekpeterman is asking a question about general: Follow this topic

by ekpeterman | October 28, 2021 16:13 | #27972


We (MMMP!) are looking for avenues for accountability on unclaimed abandoned mine land in West Virginia. Specifically, we're thinking about cases where permit violations and hazards occur on inactive mine sites: what strategies can you think of to get regulatory agencies to take action? Any examples of folks successfully getting a response in cases like this?



3 Comments

Thanks @ekpeterman!

@pat and @dswenson- I know reclamation is something you all have been on a lot recently, do you have any thoughts on accountability with inactive permits?

@eustatic - what do you do about drilling permits that lapse? and violations - thinking of Taylor spill or otherwise?

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here is one from @Pat that came in Via email:

In Wisconsin, responsibility for reclamation lies with the Land Conservation Dept. and the Director in each county. Reclamation follows NR135 guidelines. You can find out more about NR135 guidelines in WI by just entering NR135 in a google box, and the entire ruling will pop up. Last spring, the non-metallic mining director located at the DNR in WI (La Crosse--Roberta Walls) wrote a white paper attempting to make NR 135 interpretation even more clear to land conservation agents and the public. The public and the industry were invited to critique the paper. About 70 people or companies responded to the work she had done. Recently I wrote to her asking for feedback. She told me she had made some revisions but due to other work she had to complete, the public might not receive her comments until the end of the year. This week I learned that on Nov. 11, there will be a Advisory board meeting from 9-3 on her reclamation comments.. I will attend virtually so will be able to listen in and make a public comment if I desire near the end.

Because the County is responsible for seeing that reclamation occurs, filing lawsuits with the company (after negotiations) could be an option. It is required there be funding in the form of a bond or cash before the original permit is issued and each year thereafter. Whether or not those reclamation fees are paid, there should be no other option but to move ahead. However, sometimes the landowner(s) and the company do not agree on land use. Conflicts can also occur with the town ordinances or there isn't enough money. I don't think actually we have seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the conflicts that can occur over time. The company could just walk and if that occurs the county might be responsible unless it is found the landowner has some responsibility to the reclamation process. Funding could come back to rest on the taxpayer. While these mines are open to the winds/water and the impacts of erosion, any violations must be reported for follow-up by the county or by the state. Citizen efforts are absolutely critical during these monitoring times. The Sand Sentinel Program can be used to make such a report to responsible parties but citizens should be trained and provided with materials they can use to do such reporting. I don't believe there are any simple answers. The judge and the jury are still out on what is expected; meanwhile these huge monstrosities can be idle for years without action. Activists have to stay "active" so that no one loses sight of the responsibility of the company, the landowner if the land has been leased, and the county and state officials who have been delegated the power to "take care" of reclamation activities. Before NR135 was enacted years ago, sand and gravel pits did not have to be reclaimed. There are still deep holes in the landscape with all the mining of aggregates that occurred. Law or not, there are lots of questions, concerns and frac sand mining issues are open for litigation and testing to make sure reclamation works!

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In terms of groups working on the issue of abandoned land mines, I found a Pennsylvania-based group (they operate mainly using Facebook it seems, (3) PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Community | Facebook) that seems to have lots of activity and luck getting attention. They just hosted a conference (About – 2021 PA ABANDONED MINE RECLAMATION CONFERENCE (treatminewater.com) ) discussing topics from water quality monitoring and land remediation to community involvement & education and outreach initiatives. The group also created an open-source GIS database to hold and visualize data called Datashed (Datashed 3.0 Workshop – 2021 PA ABANDONED MINE RECLAMATION CONFERENCE (treatminewater.com)). This database echoes what I’ve found in trying to grab the attention of aloof regulatory agencies---graphics/data visualization/maps are powerful tools. The EPA has an environmental justice mapping tool called EJScreen (EJSCREEN (epa.gov)) that I have only used in a limited capacity, but it's an easy open-source mapping tool that already has many datasets preloaded (demographic data, environmental justice data, pollutants, etc). You can also load your own data (in the form of shapefiles) into the tool and then layer other datasets on the same map. You could, for example, map the sites of abandoned mines where permit violations and hazards are occurring and then add schools or minority population data. There is even a tool to calculate the distance from one point to another, allowing you to say “this hazardous mine is x distance away from x number of elementary schools.”

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