Coal mining can cause a lot of damage to the landscape, and the federal government has rules about how mining companies are supposed to treat the land after they’re done with it.
Basically, they’re supposed to return it to approximately what it was like before.
The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is charged with making sure the Oklahoma Department of Mines is enforcing that rule. If the Oklahoma mining regulator doesn’t, the feds can step in and take over that role.
A new report from the U.S. Department of the Interior claims some Oklahoma mining companies aren’t properly returning land to its original state, and even skirting the regulations entirely.
In addition to poor reclamation practices, the Tulsa Field Office told us about numerous instances of surface mining operators in Oklahoma halting active mining at sites while claiming that they intend to return to mining at a future date. Because these mines are technically still open, they do not have to be reclaimed immediately, in effect allowing operators to circumvent AOC (approximate original contour) requirements.
The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility, alleging the company violated the federal Clean Air Act by modifying a coal burner at its Muskogee power plant without “planning for increased levels of air pollution and failing to obtain a permit from state regulators.”
From the complaint, which is embedded above:
The Clean Air Act specifically prohibits the construction (including modification) of a “major emitting facility” unless a permit is issued …
The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reject Oklahoma’s air pollution plan and impose stricter standards was upheld Friday by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court in Denver.
“We conclude that the EPA has authority to review the state’s plan and that it lawfully exercised that authority in rejecting it and promulgating its own,” the appeals court wrote in its 2-1 decision, which is embedded above. Continue Reading →
The federal government on Monday filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric, accusing the electric utility of violating the Clean Air Act by improperly estimating the amount of emissions that could come from upgrades at two coal-fired power plants.
A copy of the government’s complaint, which was made through the Environmental Protection Agency, is included above.
The decision was unanimous, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion for the court. Here’s an excerpt from her opinion, which is embedded above:
Three things persuade the Court that the Compact did not grant cross-border rights: the well-established principle that States do not easily cede their sovereign powers; the fact that other interstate water compacts have treated cross-border rights explicitly; and the parties’ course of dealing
Attorneys representing Oklahoma and Texas argued Tarrant v. Herrmann at the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerns water in the Red River, and experts say it’s a regional water fight that could impact national water-sharing agreements.
The Supreme Court has released a transcript of today’s arguments. The above transcript is preliminary. The court’s disclaimer: “Same-day transcripts are considered official but subject to final review.”
How important are the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s financing programs for local water projects across the state?
Since 1985, close to $3 billion in low-interest loans have been secured for projects ranging from $80,000 for a water tower in rural Custer County, to $65 million for a new water treatment plant in Broken Arrow.
For Broken Arrow, going through the state programs instead of shopping for a loan itself will save close to $20 million in interest. That’s because the state has a better credit rating than most cities and towns.
Mill Creek, in south-central Oklahoma, originates from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.
The land above the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer — perhaps Oklahoma’s most sensitive water resource — is dotted with great chasms, some empty, some filled with groundwater that’s seeped in.
It’s the result of pit mining by mostly out-of-state companies eager to get their hands on the area’s rich deposits of silica sand, often used for hydraulic fracturing, and some of finest limestone in the world.
But property owners along Mill Creek, which is fed by the aquifer, are reporting low water levels. The landowners blame the mining companies for pumping out massive amounts of groundwater as they bore through the aquifer.