Title IV of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act Responses to Key Public Comments
What is the CAC? The Citizens Advisory Council was legislatively created in 1971 as part of Act 275, which created the original Department of Environmental Resources CAC provides advice to DEP, the Governor, and the PA General Assembly on environmental matters
Who is the CAC? • Comprised of 18 appointed citizen volunteers appointed by the: • Governor, • President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and • Speaker of the House of Representatives • The Secretary of DEP is the 19th member • Membership is to be geographically, politically, and professionally diverse
What does the CAC do? • Review all of PA’s environmental laws and make recommendations for revision, modification & codification • Study the work of the DEP and make recommendations for improvement – Council is to have access to all department documents, papers, records, etc. for this purpose • Five council members are elected to serve as the only non-governmental representatives on the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the rulemaking arm of the department.
What does the CAC do? • Council representatives also serve on a number of other DEP advisory committees: • Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee, • Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board, • Low Level Radioactive Waste Advisory Committee, • Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board, • Recycling Fund Advisory Committee, • Solid Waste Advisory Committee, • Radiation Protection Advisory Committee, and • Environmental Hearing Board Rules Committee.
What Does the CAC Do? • For the purposes of this discussion, our participation on the Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board is key. • CAC elects 4 of its members to sit on the MRAB, which is charged with advising the Secretary on all matters pertaining to surface coal mining and reclamation, including the expenditure of funds.
Recent History of Title IV • CAC and MRAB both encouraged Congress to distribute a greater portion of the monies collected under Title IV. • December 2006: Congress reauthorized SMCRA: • Continues collection of fees on coal produced through 2021. • Significantly increases funding provided to the states for AML reclamation, and • Increases the maximum allowable set-aside of funds for AMD treatment and abatement. • 2007: CAC, MRAB and the *PCAMRs assisted DEP in conducting 10 town hall meetings to solicit public input on how DEP should proceed with mine reclamation under the new funding formula.
Current Status • 2008: DEP is in the process of developing its strategies and plans for how it will proceed: • Comment response document • Position Paper: AMD Set Aside Program • AMD Treatability and Project Selection Criteria • Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Plan • Capital budget request for 4 new treatment plants
How much money will Pennsylvania get? • OSM: by the time fee collections end in 2021, sufficient revenue will have been generated to distribute $1.4 billion to Pennsylvania. • This money can only be spent on Priority 1 and 2 AML sites. • Up to 30% of it can be set aside for AMD. Setting aside the full 30% could amount to as much as $400 million for AMD.
How much of the 30% allowance should we take? • Pennsylvania has 4600 miles of AMD-impaired streams. • The need for continued funding for watershed projects was a clear theme of comments received during the townhall meetings. • Most commenters favored setting aside the maximum 30% for AMD abatement and treatment. • According to the AMD position paper, “…the Commonwealth shall take the maximum 30% abandoned mine drainage set-aside at the earliest possible time that provides a balance with the state’s land reclamation responsibilities.”
Balancing Act • Setting aside grant funds for AMD reduces the amount available for the AML program’s operations and construction budgets. • OSM: once money is set aside, the process can’t be reversed (i.e., the money is no longer available for reclamation). • The option to set money aside exists throughout the 3 year grant period, not just when the grant is awarded.
Public Process? • Commenters were concerned about the process of making these decisions and whether there would be future public input. • Annually BAMR will provide a recommendation to the Secretary based on the anticipated grant amount, the amount of the construction budget needed for both current and projected contracts, the amount required for program administration, and the availability of funds from other sources. • BAMR will brief MRAB on the details of the grant application and will provide notice in the Pa. Bulletin that information about the grant application is available on the department’s website.
OM&R? • More than 250 existing passive treatment systems have already been constructed with public funds in the Commonwealth. • There was a lot of discussion about providing for OM&R to protect these systems and the improvements that they have achieved. A majority of commenters urged DEP to use some portion of the set aside monies to establish a perpetual O&M fund • Per the position paper, the Commonwealth will estimate how much it needs to ensure funds are available for future O&M costs for existing facilities either owned and operated by the Commonwealth, constructed using Commonwealth funds, or being planned for construction in the near future.
OM&R (con’t) • The Commonwealth then intends to reserve a portion of the set aside funds to capitalize an account that will generate sufficient interest income to provide for future O&M costs. The account will be managed by the State Treasurer and will be invested to both maximize interest income and minimize risk. • O&M monies from the fund will be made available for the operation, maintenance and replacement of abandoned mine drainage systems constructed using Commonwealth monies. • DEP will also be able to use O&M monies in the fund for systems which were either built through Commonwealth contracting or which have been orphaned by the demise of the watershed group or other local sponsor.
Other ways to maximize our outcomes? • Commenters provided an array of suggestions, including: • Continuing to partner with watershed groups and non-profits • Coordinating with other programs and with economic interests to leverage resources • Partnering with both the private and non-profit sectors
Partnering with non-profits:Future Grants? • Commenters supported development of a grants program to be funded with the set aside funding. Some suggested that the entire amount be given to watershed groups to fund projects and support the groups. • DEP agrees that Title IV funds, including set aside funds, should be made available for grants, and intends to use some combination of existing contracting and grant processes. • However, DEP does not expect to establish a fixed ‘grants’ budget or funding level in order to retain flexibility.
Future Grants (con’t) • DEP also does not intend to develop a separate AML grants program since it already operates a Grants Center, and the administration of an independent grants program would require significant staff resources, thereby increasing BAMR’s non-construction costs. • An internal workgroup is developing new treatability and project selection guidelines in order to assure that new funds are to be spent on the most worthwhile projects with the highest likelihood of success. The draft guidelines are being presented at this conference.
Partnering with the private sector:Economic Opportunities • Resource Recovery is any effort to capture value from the water, the pollution in the water or the energy of the water. • The value of the recovery can offset some or all of the O&M costs of cleaning the water, and is therefore in the public interest. • DEP will encourage the reuse of abandoned mine waters and/or the recovery of energy resources from abandoned mine waters, and will develop any needed protocols and processes. • Private industry has proposed the treatment of 3 large volume deep mine discharges in the Little Conemaugh and Stonycreek River watersheds.
For Further Information: • The position paper, comment response document, comprehensive plans, etc. are all available on BAMR’s website at: http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/abandonedminerec
Contact Info: Sue Wilson Executive Director Citizens Advisory Council to DEP firstname.lastname@example.org