CADIZ – The Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Katharine MacGregor, was accompanied by Principal Deputy Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and Harrison County native, Lanny Erdos Tuesday for a tour of parts of Sally Buffalo Park and the Mine Safety Training Center on Industrial Park Road.
The small group included from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, Anne Vogel, assistant policy director and Brittany Colvin, Deputy Director for ODNR where they toured the area beyond the left field fence at the baseball field at Sally Buffalo and its reclaimed area.
The main purpose was for the signing of a new 10-Day Notice rule where complaints related to coal mining can now be clarified and easier to deal with.
“Under the old rule, any person could notify the Office of Surface Mining about alleged mining violations, and the agency would then have to relay credible allegations to the state regulator,” according to an article in Bloomberglaw.com (Oct. 27). “That started a 10-day clock for the state to either force a miner to fix the problem, or show good cause for not forcing action.” Now, that agency can contact a particular state before enacting the 10-day rule.
“The finalized rule improves the process by requiring timely, direct coordination with state partners, eliminating wasteful, duplicative investigations that can cause unnecessary delays in addressing concerns or potential violations,” per an OSMRE press release.
MacGregor talked of some states that still rely on coal for electricity and “it’s still a part of our energy portfolio so, what we’re doing for coal is just being smart about working with the states.” She said their ambition was to see a strong coal industry, as President Donald Trump has stated in the past.
MacGregor said they’re now taking a closer look at many abandoned mines and asking what some of these rare earth elements can be used for commercial viability. When asked about efforts towards cleaner burning coal MacGregor cited Trump’s backing of the coal industry and efforts to support the jobs she said are fundamental to the country.
“Things are good when we’re not relying on foreign cartels for our energy,” MacGregor stated. “These legacy areas they built our country. You know, that coal went to Pittsburgh [and] help fired the steel that built our country, built our military might and we’re proud of that legacy and it’s continuing today.”
MacGregor said they began Monday at Penn State University for a talk on critical minerals “and some of the research that’s being done to pull critical minerals out” and coal waste in hopes of finding ways to make coal waste “more marketable.”
She then turned her sights on the local area noting the natural resources being pulled out of Harrison County.
“I think what we’re doing in this administration is making sure we have smart regulations and we’re working with our state partners and ensuring that these jobs are here to stay,” she explained. “We’re not phasing them out,” which is in direct conflict with what Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said he plans to do.
Erdos expressed how excited he was to have the deputy secretary visit Cadiz, which sits surrounded by a struggling coal industry. But he also echoed MacGregor’s words by citing not only her office’s support of the coal industry but it also comes from OSMRE.
“One of the things that we looked at doing to support the industry was the Ten-Day Notice rule,” Erdos explained adding that it allows them to work more closely with state partners and the citizens.
“It makes it a very transparent process that’s very effective and efficient,” he said, “and we believe that’s not only good for the environment and the citizens but also good for the operators of state.” He also noted the first pilot program of the state, which sits beyond the ball field at Sally Buffalo. He noted its cost at $750,000 calling it a “dangerous high wall” stating he witnessed it before the reclamation was complete.
“[It will] allow the local park to create some permanent campsites as well, some RV hookups in the future,” Erdos said. He called it a big deal for the community and said his office has administered more than $500,000,000 since 2016 as part of the Abandoned Mine Lands project.
Russ Byers, who is the man in charge of underground mine safety led MacGregor on a tour of the Industrial Park facility after leaving Sally Buffalo Park.