Ohio’s remining program began in 1995 with the issuance of modified effluent limitations to Sands Hill Coal Co. on permit D-1108. These modified effluent changes were enabled by changes enacted by Congress to the Clean Water Act in 1987, known as the “Rahall Amendments”.
Since that time there have been several other changes to the federal and state regulations that have brought about numerous remining incentives available to the coal mining industry.
- In March of 2000, US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued new guidelines applying to coal remining operations which became effective in 2006.
- The federal Office of Surface Mining and Enforcement (OSM) promulgated the Abandoned Mine Land Enhancement Rule in 2003.
- The Energy Policy Act of 1992 made regulatory changes that provided incentives for remining.
The Division is in the process of upgrading its rules and policies in response to those regulatory changes that have occurred since 2003. In addition, the Division is evaluating methods to enhance the coal mining industry’s participation in the existing remining incentives.
(excerpt from EPA “Economic and Environmental Impact Assessment of Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Coal Mining Industry: Remining Subcategory)
Coal remining is the mining of surface mine lands, underground mine lands, and coal refuse piles that were abandoned prior to the enactment of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) in 1977. Many coal mines were left in an abandoned state and continue to degrade the environment and pose health and safety risks.
EPA and Ohio DMRM considers the acid mine drainage that originates from these abandoned coal mine lands to be “pre-existing discharges”. Acid mine drainage is a major problem in eastern Ohio and other Appalachian and mid-Continental coal regions of the United States.
EPA and Ohio DMRM recognizes that one of the most successful means for improvement of abandoned mine land is for coal mining companies to remine abandoned areas and extract the coal reserves that remain. EPA and Ohio DMRM also recognizes that if abandoned mine lands (AML) are ignored during coal mining of adjacent areas, a time critical opportunity of reclaiming the abandoned mine land is lost.
During remining operations, acid-forming materials are removed with the extraction of coal; pollution abatement best management practices (BMPs) are implemented under applicable regulatory requirements; and the abandoned mined land is reclaimed. During remining many of the problems associated with AML -- such as dangerous highwalls -- can be corrected without the use of public funds. Furthermore the implementation of appropriate BMPs during remining can be effective at improving the water quality of pre-existing discharges.
Unfortunately, the potential of the Rahall Amendment to remove the disincentives and derive the maximum environmental benefits from remining has not been fully realized in the absence of implementing regulations. EPA has implemented the Coal Remining Subcategory to provide regulatory guidance to encourage remining activities, and in turn, reduce acid mine drainage and improve water quality. (Note: These regulations became effective in 2006.)