OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT
Congressional Records - April 28, 1977
Following is the April 28, 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. E2562
April 28, 1977
HON. MAX BAUCUS OF MONTANA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
E2562 Wednesday, April 27, 1977
E2562 Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. Speaker, I plan to offer an amendment tomorrow to the strip mining bill, H.R. 2. My amendment, which has the support of the administration, deals with section 510(b)(5), the "alluvial valley" section. Western alluvial valleys are fragile, highly productive areas essential to water systems. Coal mining in those valleys can have severely adverse impacts, especially on the water systems. The effect of mining in the valley is likely to be particularly severe and to be difficult to determine in advance.
E2562 As introduced, H.R. 2 prohibited mining: First, in alluvial valley floors, except on undeveloped rangeland or where the effect on a farm's production would be negligible or; second, where there would be an adverse effect on underground water systems supplying these valleys. Mines already producing coal were exempted from the prohibition.
E2562 The reported bill changes the original in several respects:
E2562 First. The exemption for mining having a negligible impact on a farm's production was broadened by making the test one of negligible impact on "production within the alluvial valley floor";
E2562 Second. The no adverse effect test for water systems was changed to a "not materially damage test"; and
E2562 Third. The grandfather clause was broadened to include mines for which permits had been granted or substantial financial and legal commitments had been made prior to January 4, 1977.
E2562 My proposed amendment seeks to moderate those changes. First, it clearly and mandatorily place off-limits to mining all alluvial valley floors as defined in section 501. Thus it would simplify the language in the current bill and would not invite a long and costly process of litigation. Further, it would be much easier for the regulatory authority to administer.
E2562 Second, it would allow the regulatory authority with the discretion to determine on a site-by-site, specific basis whether mining operations located adjacent to valley floors will have a significant impact on these valley floors.
E2562 Third, it would "grandfather" existing operations, and those with permits as of January 4, 1977.
E2562 Fourth, it will also create a reserve of coal that cannot be mined. Currently, floors in the West. The Environmental there are several mines located on valley Protection Agency is now negotiating a contract with the State of Wyoming to study the effects of the Big Horn mine on the Tongue River alluvial valley. As this and other studies determine the full impacts of mining on valley floors, this section can be altered or not altered depending on the results of these studies.
E2562 My amendment would take out of production only a small portion of the western strippable reserves. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency of 2,200 square miles of southeastern Montana determined alluvial valley floors overlay only 2.6 percent of the coal in that area. This figure compares favorably with the U.S. Geological Survey's analysis which indicated that of the proposed surface mines with Federal involvement, no proposed mine has greater than 3.7 percent of its land surface covered by an alluvial valley. Industry claims that this amendment would prevent mining in large areas of the west are, therefore, without factual foundation.
E2562 Mr. Speaker, the fundamental goal of my amendment addresses is to preserve the hydrologic balance in those areas where strip mining takes place. As the West faces serious drought conditions, surely we need not dispute the folly of tampering with a fragile relationship with the underground waters which nature has provided us.
E2562 One can hardly overestimate the importance of these valleys to Montana's agriculture. I would argue, however, that the bill as presented by the committee leaves some loopholes which we might live to regret. It seems to me that the current use of land, such as "undeveloped range land," is not nearly so important as the potential use of the land - we should not render unproductive land which offers potential for agriculture.
E2562 I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, the precise language of which follows:
E2562 BAUCUS AMENDMENT ON ALLUVIAL VALLEY FLOORS
E2562 Strike: All of section 510(b)(5): Page 258, lines 21-25 and page 259, lines 1-22 and insert in lieu thereof:
E2562 (5) the proposed surface coal mining operation if located west of the one hundredth meridian west longitude, would -
E2562 (A) not be located within an alluvial valley floor, or
E2562 (B) not materially damage the quantity or quality of water in surface or underground water systems that supply these valley floors referred to in (A) of subsection (B)(5) Provided, That this paragraph (5) shall not apply to those surface coal mining operations located within or adjacent to alluvial valley floors which in the year preceding the enactment of this Act were engaged in the commercial production of coal or which had obtained prior to January 4, 1977, specific permit approval by the State regulatory authority to conduct surface coal mining operations within said alluvial valley floors.