WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior today announced that the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) will pursue administrative and program consolidations with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are expected to generate savings and efficiencies, while continuing to operate as an independent bureau within Interior. The path forward, outlined in a report to the Secretary made public today, is the result of a months-long consolidation initiative to identify how Interior can most efficiently and cost-effectively deliver services to the American people.
The OSM Director will continue to report to the Secretary through the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, and OSM's coal-related regulatory functions will remain separate from the BLM's coal-leasing responsibilities.
Today's announcement stems from recommendations made by a senior leadership team charged by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to evaluate the feasibility of consolidating some functions of OSM and the BLM for greater efficiency.
The senior leadership team – which included Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Marcilynn Burke, OSM Director Joseph Pizarchik and BLM Director Bob Abbey – gathered, and took into account, extensive input of employees, members of Congress, states, tribes, industry, representatives of communities affected by coal production and other interested parties in developing their report.
“After extensive consultation with employees and stakeholders and a comprehensive review by our senior leadership, it is clear that there are significant efficiencies to be gained by consolidating duplicative administrative functions in these bureaus,” said Salazar. “Implementing these actions will free up savings and management time that can be used to strengthen OSM's capacity to oversee surface coal mining operations, while maintaining the agency's independence. We remain committed to making government work better to further strengthen our regulatory, reclamation and stewardship responsibilities, and we will do this by building on the strengths of both OSM and BLM to get the most out of our limited resources.”
“It is neither necessary nor cost-effective for OSM, one of the smallest bureaus in the Department, to replicate administrative services that other, larger bureaus can more efficiently provide,” said OSM Director Pizarchik. “These recommendations spell good government, and they will ensure OSM's independence under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.” The Act allows OSM to use, on a reimbursable basis, other federal agencies to administer the provisions of the legislation as well as to assume some functions of other bureaus, provided those activities relate to OSM's mission.
“BLM stands ready to provide a variety of support services to OSM more cost-effectively, thereby freeing up some OSM management time to focus more on their core regulatory mission,” said BLM Director Abbey. “Many internal stakeholders recognized the potential advantages of consolidating these redundant administrative functions based on successful shared services arrangements between other bureaus within the Department.”
Under the plan announced today, the BLM will provide significant support services to OSM, including: national vehicle fleet and property management, equal employment opportunity compliance, ethics training and compliance, safety and occupational health functions, non-technical employee training and space allocation management. In addition, reimbursable agreements for Department-level services should be considered for other administrative functions, including human relations operations, acquisition and procurement, information technology and space co-location.
To ensure that OSM remains an independent agency and that its Director can discharge his or her responsibilities effectively under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, certain key functions will remain separate, including communications, budget and emergency management offices and operations.
To streamline the Department's revenue collection and audit responsibilities, OSM's ministerial fee collection, distribution and audit functions will be transferred to Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR), which collects and disburses revenues from energy production on federal and American Indian lands and the Outer Continental Shelf. These and similar functions represent a significant portion of OSM's current workload and are well suited to the core mission of ONRR.
OSM will maintain responsibility for managing the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund and verifying that funds distributed through the AML program are expended properly under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, according to the report. Decisions affecting the AML program also will remain in OSM, including fee policy, development of annual audit plans, enforcement actions, grant making and post-distribution verification of State and Tribal grant expenditures – although some increased AML-related efficiencies are recommended.
In addition, OSM will serve as the Department's primary provider of AML physical hazards remediation design and project management in order to recognize some increased efficiencies that can be obtained in the AML program.
While OSM's coal-related regulatory responsibilities will not be mixed with BLM's coal-leasing responsibilities, Secretary Salazar also directed Acting Assistant Secretary Burke, Director Pizarchik and Director Abbey to undertake a longer-term evaluation of whether some of the BLM's non-coal mining law enforcement responsibilities might be transferred to OSM, so as to avoid either a real or perceived conflict of interest between leasing activity and enforcement.
The report's recommendations were informed by input from four employee-led interagency teams from OSM, the BLM and ONRR; extensive public meetings around the country that engaged tribes, state regulatory officials, industry, interested parties, the environmental advocacy community, and representatives of communities affected by coal mining. Appropriate Congressional and executive branch officials also were consulted.
The report is available here. More information is available at The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and Bureau of Land Management websites.