Department Of Interior

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Contact:Mike Gauldin, OSM
For Immediate Release: July 9, 2003

Secretary Norton Announces Federal Approval of Changes
to West Virginia's Mining Rules to Better Protect Citizens
from Storm Water Flooding

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today announced that the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has approved new rules proposed by West Virginia that will give its citizens greater protection from flooding associated with coal mining.

OSM reviewed and approved a program amendment submitted earlier by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to implement recommendations of the State's Flood Study (Governor's Executive Order No. 16-01) that was completed in June 2002.

As a result of this amendment, West Virginia added new rules that require all permits to analyze storm water runoff. Also added are new performance standards for durable rock fills. They include requirements for either single-lift durable fills with erosion protection zones at the toe of the fills or durable rock fills constructed from the toe upward.

Storm water runoff is of particular concern in steep, mountainous terrain.

Secretary Norton visited the site of a flood in Lyburn, WV, last August with OSM Director Jeff Jarrett to talk with residents and survey the damage first-hand.

"These new requirements by the state will greatly reduce the risk to West Virginia citizens," said Jarrett. "Under these new rules, all operations will have to demonstrate that there will be no net increase in peak runoff as a result of mining."

At the request of West Virginia's Division of Mining and Reclamation, OSM expedited its review so the new rules could be implemented.

According to state officials, OSM's decision provides the authority they need to ensure that mining operations will not cause downstream disturbances during rainfall events. The new durable rock fill design standards should ensure improved fill stability and limit offsite disturbances.

In addition to implementing recommendations from its flood study, the state made additional improvements in its program and satisfied three required program amendments imposed earlier by OSM.

WVDEP revised its re-mining requirements to improve water quality at abandoned mine land sites within the state. Under the new rules, an operator who mines a previously mined area may qualify for a water quality exemption under the Clean Water Act. Upon completion of mining, the operator will have to demonstrate that the water quality at the remining site is no worse than what existed before mining.


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