Jim Stark updated the committees on coal activities at the division. The division has hired a new Environmental Protection Specialist, Jarrod Ebert. Jim stated that the division met recently with CDPHE Water Division and as CDPHE indicated in its earlier remarks to the Water Committee they do not consider Small Area Exemptions (under SMCRA) relevant to their regulation under the Clean Water Act. The rulemaking changes to the coal program that were discussed nearly a decade ago and sent to OSM have now been published in the Federal Register and the division will be moving forward with its rulemaking.
On the hardrock side, there is continuing conversation about Temporary Cessation. The Appeals Court will remand the case to the Board for disposition in accordance with the Court’s findings. The case will be back in front of the MLRB in November. The committee asked how this will affect other sites in Temporary Cessation? DRMS responded that the determination of whether the statutory criteria have been met is made on basis of fact which may differ from one case to another. There will be a division rulemaking with scoping beginning in December of January to rewrite the TC rules, which may be a total rewrite. The statute on TC is vague in several respects: What constitutes production? Are temporary cessation periods cumulative or consecutively? Does a legal action (e.g. an injunction or stay) toll the TC period?
The two regulatory programs (coal and hardrock) have merged. The abandoned mines program is chipping away at controlling coal mine fires and contractors have hired laid off miners to work on the projects.
DRMS will meet with the Western Small Miners group in October as they do each year. In addition, DOE may have representatives present. Temporary Cessation will be an issue for discussion as will tax rulings on exploration, mining and milling. Action on the 232 petition is expected October 10. Energy Fuels and UR are involved in the 232 discussion as are generation utilities. The question of viable markets was raised and the response from members was that the price of uranium would need to reach $60-$65 per pound in order to mine.
The Division is not asking for any new legislation in 2020. They hope to deal with definitions for production and timing of activities that could be included through rulemaking (as the statute is silent).
Diana Orf informed the committee of draft bills coming from various interim committees including one that would require CDPHE to provide a rationale before inserting new requirements into permits. She explained the history of the current statute which applies to General Permits only and informed the committee that expansion to all permits could be a double edged sword that allows CDPHE to justify unreasonable requirements in advance, limiting the opportunities for a successful challenge later.