WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe led the Oklahoma congressional delegation Wednesday in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Sec. Sally Jewell to urge the Department’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to discontinue its attempt to resolve programmatic issues with the Oklahoma Department of Mines with "secrecy agreements.” The letter urges Secretary Jewell to open an inquiry into OSM’s practices of secret negotiations as an attempt to avoid public participation in issue-resolution discussions. The letter was signed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2), Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), Tom Cole (R-OK-4), and James Lankford (R-OK-5).
The Members wrote, “It has come to our attention that the Department’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement recently demanded that the Oklahoma Department of Mines (ODM) enter into a “secrecy agreement” in order to discuss resolutions of an issue that has arisen with its surface mining program, over which it has primacy.”
For decades, Oklahoma has been working with OSM to resolve a variety of programmatic issues. The Department of Interior has clear, well established procedures that follow the policies and regulations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMRCA) of 1977 provides that once a state develops laws, regulations and programs that are as effective as Federal SMCRA, the Secretary of Interior may grant “primacy” to that state. Oklahoma achieved primacy in 1983, and thus assumed exclusive jurisdiction over surface coal mining with limited oversight by OSM.
“The essence of OSM’s mission in a primacy state is to work with the state to resolve programmatic issues. For OSM to suggest that it will only do its job under the condition of secrecy is completely improper, as well as unproductive. Conducting government business in secret erodes public confidence, and in this case it is a blatant attempt to avoid public participation in an official decision. This proposal is also at odds with the President’s transparency agenda and claim that his Administration is ‘the most transparent administration in history.’”
“We urge you to open an inquiry into the practices of OSM to engage in secret negotiations as a means of avoiding public participation in its discussions, particularly with states that have primacy over their federal programs. In the interim, we urge you to instruct the Director of OSM to immediately abandon this effort in Oklahoma.”
You can view the whole text of the letter by clicking here.