U.S. Department of the Interior

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Harry Payne
Division of Regulatory Support
(202) 208-2895

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Building a Stream Protection Rule

General Discussion of the Rule

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has proposed a new rule for regulation of coal mining to take advantage of new advances in science, and to improve the balance between environmental protection and providing for the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy. The proposed rule would better protect streams, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and provide mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and the long-term costs associated with water treatment.

The proposed rule would revise OSMRE’s regulations to clearly define “material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area,” and require that each permit specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would reach that level of damage. The proposed rule would also require mine operators to collect adequate pre-mining data about the site of the proposed mining operation and adjacent areas to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation.

The proposed rule would also adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams.

The rule would also ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, ensure that mine operators and regulatory authorities make use of the most current science and technology, and ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining. This rule revision updates and codifies the requirements and dispute resolution procedures involved when the proposed permit or adjacent areas contain federally listed threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat. The proposed changes would apply to both surface mines and the surface effects of underground mines.

The majority of the proposed revisions update our regulations to incorporate or reflect the best available science and experience gained over the last 30 years. Approximately thirty percent of the proposed rule consists of non-substantive editorial revisions and organizational changes intended to improve consistency, clarity, accuracy, and ease of use.

Read the full text of the proposed rule at the Federal Register (

The comment period has ended but comments on the proposed rule at can be viewed at!documentDetail;D=OSM-2010-0018-0001

Read the full text of the supporting Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), (pdf 27MB)

The comment period has ended but comments on the Draft Enivonmental Impact Statement at can be viewed at!documentDetail;D=OSM-2010-0021-0001

Read the text of the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA)

The comment period has ended but comments on the Regulatory Impact Analysis at can be viewed at!documentDetail;D=OSM-2015-0002-0001

Read the Congressional Research Service Report: The Office of Surface Mining's Proposed Stream Protection Rule: An Overview

July 16: Read the news release, "Interior Department Unveils Proposed Stream Protection Rule to Safeguard Communities from Coal Mining Operations"

September 9: Read the Media Release "OSMRE Extends Public Comment Period for the Proposed Stream Protection Rule, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), and the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) to Support the Rule"

September 10: Read the SPR Extension of Comment Period on Comment period extended to October 26, 2015

February 3: Read Director Pizarchik's testimony at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Implications of the Proposed Stream Protection Rule

October 27: The comment period is now over. Over 94,000 comments were received.

Public Hearings

OSMRE held public hearings on the proposed rule and the DEIS at six locations throughout the nation:

  1. Tuesday, September 1 - Denver, CO
  2. Thursday, September 3 - Lexington, KY
  3. Thursday, September 10 - St. Louis, MO
  4. Thursday, September 10 - Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Tuesday, September 15 - Big Stone Gap, VA
  6. Thursday, September 17 - Charleston, WV

The bureau held the hearings within the 60-day public comment period. View the news release for further information on venues and times of the public hearings.

Public Hearings Materials


The following handouts were available at the public meetings:


The following posters were displayed at the public meetings:

Video Presentation

Below is the presentation shown at the public hearings or view as a pdf:

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 09/22/16

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