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EPA RELEASES NEW DATA FOR COMMENT ON COAL REMINING

Release Date: 07/27/2001
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FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2001
EPA RELEASES NEW DATA FOR COMMENT ON COAL REMINING

Robin Woods 202-564-7841 / woods.robin@epa.gov



In EPA's efforts to reduce severe environmental damage from abandoned coal mines, the agency is taking comment on new data it has received concerning "remining" practices that retrieve remaining coal from abandoned mines. Last year, on April 11, 2000, EPA proposed to establish Clean Water Act effluent limitations guidelines on remining operations that will encourage the extraction of coal from abandoned mine lands while at the same time encouraging the cleanup of acid mine drainage. EPA is releasing new data and comments on the April 2000 proposal for public review and further comment. When remining, the operator must reclaim the abandoned mine land and implement pollution control technologies designed to reduce the pollution caused by acid mine drainage. Thus, remining has the multiple benefits of improving water quality, removing hazardous conditions and utilizing remaining coal. Acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines is the number one water quality problem in the Appalachian states. It is estimated that there are over 1.1 million acres of abandoned coal mine lands, over 9,000 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage, and many miles of dangerous embankments, highwalls, and surface impoundments. Prior to 1977, reclamation of mine lands was not a federal requirement. Many coal mines were left in an abandoned state and continue to degrade the environment and pose health and safety risks. In addition to having severe environmental and safety problems, abandoned mine lands can contain large amounts of coal. Modern surface mining techniques now provide mining operators with more economical means of “remining” to extract remaining coal reserves. EPA's April 2000 proposal addressed regulatory disincentives and encouraged remining activities that will reduce acid mine drainage and improve water quality. It would significantly increase the rate at which abandoned mine lands are reclaimed, allowing remining at up to 61 additional sites, reclaiming 1800-2500 acres a year. It would require coal remining operators to develop a site specific pollution abatement plan designed to reduce the pollution load from pre-existing discharges. At the same time that EPA proposed the coal remining subcategory to the effluent guidelines, the agency also proposed a Western Alkaline Coal Mining subcategory. The Notice of Data Availability will be published in the Federal Register next week. The notice and supporting documents that describe this rule are available on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/guide/coal. EPA expects to publish a final rule by the end of the year.

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