July 15, 2011
Washington D.C.—The Oklahoma delegation, including U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and U.S. Reps. John Sullivan (R-OK- 1), Dan Boren (D-OK-2), Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), Tom Cole (R-OK-4), and James Lankford (R-OK-5), sent a letter today to Joseph Pizarchik, Director of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Reclamation and Enforcement, to ask the Agency to reconsider decisions that will cost Oklahoma jobs.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) allows for a cooperative arrangement of federal and state authority for the regulation of surface mining. Under SMCRA, states have the primary responsibility for developing, authorizing, issuing and enforcing regulations and reclamation operations while ensuring that OSM maintains a limited oversight role. However, OSM has recently been overstepping its authority: through several oversight initiatives, the Agency has been trying to take over the permitting process, currently under the jurisdiction of the state.
OSM is also developing a proposed Stream Protection Rule. A leaked draft revealed that one of the potential goals of this rule is to stop new mining activity in Oklahoma: "The reasonable, foreseeable development scenario for coal production in the United States [the preferred option] is for no new mining activity in [Oklahoma]..." If this rule is finalized, at least 260 jobs in the Oklahoma mining industry would be at risk.
This letter asks Director Pizarchik to halt this overreaching regulatory agenda and requests a briefing to discuss how to rein in these unacceptable decisions on the part of OSM.
Senator Inhofe: "The Obama Administration is working overtime to eliminate fossil fuels and if successful, the impact would be devastating in Oklahoma. Not only are they working aggressively to kill natural gas development, now they are attacking coal mining: OSM's Stream Protection rule - which clearly states that its goal is to stop new mining activity - will destroy at least 260 good paying jobs. These are jobs Oklahoma can't afford to lose. I will be fighting this process every step of the way."
Rep. Sullivan: "This is a direct assault on the mining industry in Oklahoma that will place at least 260 high wage jobs in our state at risk. What we are seeing here is just another example of the Obama Administration over stepping its bounds and infringing on Oklahoma's authority to develop, issue and enforce regulations for surface coal mining in our state."
Rep. Boren: "The coal industry is vital to the economy of Eastern Oklahoma. The OPMs new oversight initiative was unprompted, and interferes with the state's ability to regulate its operations effectively."
Rep. Lucas: "Coal mining is an important energy source in Oklahoma. Recent actions of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to disproportionally regulate coal production in our state does not only decrease energy production; it also puts 260 jobs at risk. This is another example of how government agency's overreaching authorities have a negative economic impact in the United States."
Rep. Cole: "This is another example of federal overregulation infringing on state responsibilities. The coal industry is vital to Oklahoma, and I urge the administration to put a stop to these damaging, excessive regulations."
Rep. Lankford: "No one cares more about Oklahoma air, water and land than Oklahomans. Increased oversight from Washington applies a one-size-fits-all approach that would decrease energy production and destroy jobs. I urge the Office of Surface Mining to reconsider their recent actions and allow Oklahoma to maintain control of our own land and resources."