Jurisdiction: Coal Mining
The Commission is proposing some mining and reclamation rule changes, Case No. RC-15-737, as the result of statutory changes made by Senate Bill 2377 during the 2015 Legislative Session. The proposed rule changes relate to “commercial leonardite” and the rulemaking hearing will be held February 18, 2016, in the Commission Hearing Room on the 12th Floor of the State Capitol. The following documents pertain to this rulemaking case:
- Proposed Rule Changes
- Statement Regarding Regulatory Analysis, Small Entity Analysis and Impact, and Taking Assessments
- Notice of Intent to Amend Administrative Rules and Notice of Public Hearing
The Commission's Reclamation Division is charged with the responsibility of administering the State's program regulating the surface mining of coal. The program is primarily an environmental protection program. The Reclamation Division's mission statement is as follows:
The Reclamation Division strives to administer the surface coal mining and reclamation program mandated by state and federal law to achieve optimum results in a cost-effective and fair manner, and to ensure that mining operations subject to this program are conducted in such a way that they:
- Are environmentally sound and minimize adverse effects
- Protect public interest and the rights of property owners
- Return mined lands to beneficial uses, and
- Restore the productivity of mined agricultural lands to premine levels
Related goals are to: Continually carry out the mine permitting, inspection and bond release activities in a manner that provides the required protection to the environment and property owners while being responsive to needs of the mining industry. Continually evaluate and adjust the regulatory program to achieve the optimum balance among environmental protection, least-cost industry operations and landowner pursuit of agricultural interests; Continue to explore the scientific, engineering and statistical underpinnings of the regulatory program and make every effort to see that improvements resulting from that exploration are made at both the state and federal level; Promote public awareness of the regulatory program through increased contact with relevant organizations and potentially affected landowners; and Maintain maximum staff effectiveness by providing training and other opportunities for professional growth.
The Reclamation Division evaluates surface mining permit, permit revision and renewal applications, makes recommendations to the Commissioners regarding permit issuance, and carries out inspections of coal mines to ensure compliance with the program's requirements. The Division is staffed by nine full-time specialists in agricultural and physical sciences, and engineering.
Regulation of the coal industry in North Dakota began in 1970. Approximately 144,000 acres have been put under permit since that time and over 27,000 of those acres have been released completely from performance bond. In early 2014, about 117,000 acres were under permit and approximately 74,000 acres of that had been disturbed by mining activities. About 49,000 acres of the disturbed acres had been reshaped after mining, soil was replaced and the areas were re-seeded. Since 1980, North Dakota's regulatory program has been a partnership effort between the State and the US Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining. At present, 64% of program costs are borne by the Department of the Interior. The remaining 36% comes from funds appropriated by the Legislature.
North Dakota is the 10th largest coal producer in the United States, with an average production of approximately 27.5 million tons per year over the past several years. Nearly all of the coal is used within the State at mine-mouth power generating facilities and the nation's only commercially operating coal gasification plant.
Link to the website of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.