OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT
Congressional Records - March 1, 1977
Following is the March 1, 1977 Congressional Record. The text below is compiled from the Office of Surface Mining's COALEX data base, not an original printed document, and the reader is advised that coding or typographical errors could be present.
123 CONG.REC. H1534
March 1, 1977
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Ohio
(Mr. WHALEN) is recognized for 5 minutes.
H1534 Mr. WHALEN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing H.R. 2, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. This bill establishes minimum Federal environmental standards for surface mining operations, creates a State mining and mineral research institute, and provides for reclamation of abandoned mines. Permit me to share with you my reasons for supporting this legislation.
H1534 First, the coal industry is experiencing a revitalization which, in view of our present energy shortages, is likely to continue for some years. Both President Carter and Energy Chief James Schlesinger have called for increased coal production to offset our dependency on natural gas and imported oil. In addition, the Federal Government has implemented a series of proposals which will lead to increased use of coal. The FEA instituted a program calling for the conversion of electric power plants to coal consumption, and the Energy Conservation and Oil Policy Act of 1975 extended the FEA's mandate. The ERDA budget for fiscal year 1977 includes $4 05 million for coal research and development, while the Department of the Interior requested $1 01 million for coal programs. Another factor which is expected to lead to rapid growth of the industry is the discovery of thick coal deposits in the West. Thus, expansion in the industry is imminent. In order to insure that this growth occurs in the manner that will best serve our long-term energy needs, we must establish Federal mining standards and coordinated research efforts now.
H1534 Second, action must be taken to resolve the environmental controversies surrounding the industry. In the past surface mining has had an enormous environmental impact. It has increased the acidity of lakes and rivers and has altered drainage patterns, which, in turn, has reduced water supplies to downstream valleys.
H1534 Mining has destroyed prime hardwood forests and wildlife habitats, degraded productive farmland, and contributed to recurrent landslides. Satellite pictures indicated that soil and hydrological characteristics in mined areas are different than those of the surrounding land, and the scars are deen and permanent. The discovery of vast Western coal reserves raises serious questions about the removal of thick coal seams and consequent disruption of river channels in a region of limited water supplies.
H1534 H.R. 2 addresses these environmental concerns by requiring mining companies to regrade the land to its approximate original contour and to meet reasonable standards regarding water supplies. Of course these requirements will not eliminate environmental disturbances. However, they will insure that at least minimum efforts in this regard are made. It is hoped that State regulatory authorities will strengthen the provisions and require additional measures to meet local needs.
H1534 Third, the bill must be enacted to insure that uniform regulations for coal production and reclamation exist across the entire Nation. It is true that all of the major coal producing States now have enacted legislation regulating surface mining. However, these laws vary greatly in stringency and enforcement. Most States are not inclined to impose tough standards on their own industries and put local businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Federal legislation would remove the unfair advantage now enjoyed by States which are allowing poorly regulated strip mining to continue.
H1534 The time to enact this legislation is now. In response to renewed interest in industry, coal producers have increased their prices. Responsible spokesmen for the industry have indicated that reclamation costs are economically acceptable now. If we enact the measure promptly, we can provide coal producers with important information they need to make plans and investment decisions for the future.
H1535 This legislation has received strong bipartisan support ever since early drafts were introduced in the 92d Congress. Now, in the 95th Congress, it is apparent that the need for such a law is great. H.R. 2 represents a culmination of previous efforts to provide for long-term, environmentally sound coal production and I join the new administration and my colleagues in urging prompt and favorable consideration of it.