OFFICE of SURFACE MINING
RECLAMATION and ENFORCEMENT

U.S. Department of the Interior

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For More Information:

William Winters
Program Support Branch Chief
bwinters@osmre.gov
(865) 545-4103 X 170


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Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition

View of the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition area.

View of the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition area.

Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), a member of the public may petition a state regulatory authority to declare areas not otherwise precluded from coal mining operations as "lands unsuitable for mining" (LUM). Such a designation would mean that no new surface coal mining permits could be issued within the designated area.

As the SMCRA regulatory authority in Tennessee, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has evaluated a petition to designate more than 67,000 acres as unsuitable for surface coal mining. The bureau began work on the petition in 2010 after the State of Tennessee petitioned OSMRE to designate certain ridge lines and connecting corridors within the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and Emory River Tract Conservation Easement under the discretionary provisions of Section 522 of SMCRA. The petition seeks to prevent surface mining within 600 feet on either side of ridge lines within the 269 square miles of the two areas.

The following assertions serve as the basis for the State’s petition:

  • Surface coal mining operations are incompatible with existing State or local land use plans or programs; and,
  • Surface coal mining operations would affect fragile or historic lands, resulting in significant damage to important historic, cultural, scientific, and aesthetic values and natural systems.

In December 2015, OSMRE released the draft Petition Evaluation Document/Environmental Impact Statement (PED/EIS) document. In that document OSMRE evaluated six possible alternatives, including a “no-action” alternative that would deny the petition. OSMRE identified Alternative 3 as the preferred in the draft PED/EIS. The bureau solicited public input by holding four public meetings, and accepting written statements in an extended public comment period. As of the comment period closing (1/25/16), a total of 3,220 individual comments were recorded in the National Park Service PEPC system. This number does not include pre-packaged comments received via mail or e-mail from specific groups (i.e. Center for Biological Diversity, Alliance for Appalachia, etc.) that adds another 10,000 comments.

Based on public comments and the subsequent evaluation, the bureau identified Alternative 4 as the preferred alternative. This alternative sets aside 76,000 acres in an expanded corridor of independently identified ridgelines as unsuitable for new surface coal mining operations. However, the designation would not prohibit remining of some sites. OSMRE may still permit remining on a case-by-case basis if the remining is consistent with the criteria for designation.

December 7: Read the News Release "Secretary Jewell Announces Decision to Protect 75,000 Acres of Eastern Tennessee Mountains From Future Surface Mining"

October 21: Read the News Release "OSMRE Releases Final Documents on Tennessee's Petition for Lands Unsuitable for Mining"

Map of Alternative 4 (OSMRE’s preferred alternative)

The map below shows the 600-foot ridge line buffer zones described in the petition.

Map of Alternative 4 (OSMRE’s preferred alternative)

Record of Decision and Statement of Reasons

On December 7, 2016, the Department of the Interior designated 74,968 acres as unsuitable for coal mining operations, including surface activities in connection with underground mining operations. The area designated as unsuitable for coal mining operations is within a 76,133 acre area and includes 569 miles of ridgeline (with a 1,200-foot corridor; 600 feet on both sides of the ridgeline), including ridgelines proposed in the State’s petition and ridgelines identified by the OSMRE. Pursuant to 30 CFR § 762.13(b), lands covered by an existing permit issued under SMCRA will not be considered as part of this designation. As such, 1,165 acres of lands covered by an existing permit within the 76,133 acre petition area will not be affected. This designation would not prohibit the use of existing access or haul roads. This designation would also not prohibit remining of sites if the proposed remining is consistent with the criteria under which this designation is being granted and other applicable requirements as set forth in the Record of Decision.

Read the Record of Decision.

Developing the Petition Evaluation Document and EIS

The steps below constitute the process OSMRE is following as it develops the document.


Internal Scoping

Notice of Intent Published in Federal Register

View Document


Public Scoping

View Document


Preparation of Draft PED/EIS


Notice of Availability of Draft PED/EIS


Public Comment Period for the Draft PED/EIS


Preparation of Final PED/EIS


Notice of Availability of Final PED/EIS


30 Day Waiting Period as Required by NEPA


Record of Decision

Complete

In Progress

Not Started

OSMRE will update this chart as the LUM process progresses.

Related Documents

View from Bear Knob in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area

View from Bear Knob in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area.

View from Anderson Mountain in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area

View from Anderson Mountain in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area.

View from McCloud Mountain in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area

View from McCloud Mountain in the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area.



Abandoned highwall from pre-SMCRA mining within the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area

Abandoned highwall from pre-SMCRA mining within the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area.

Typical surface mining within the TN LUM Petition Area

Typical surface mining within the Tennessee Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition Area.



Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 4/24/17

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