Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced a new initiative to strengthen enforcement of its current respirable crystalline silica standards. Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in sand, stone, concrete, and other materials. When disturbed by cutting, grinding, or crushing, it becomes airborne and respirable, capable of
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued a notice of proposed amendments to the regulations regarding surface coal mining in Title 11 of the Alaska Administrative Code (AAC).
The DNR proposes to implement program amendments from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement required to maintain the state’s primacy over the…
Of interest to mineral projects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) continues to attempt to revise some of its Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementing regulations to align with the relatively recent decision from the Supreme Court in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv. (139 S. Ct. 361 (2018)). Today, it proposed new…
State of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has issued COVID-19 Disaster Order of Suspension No 2, suspending a long list of statutory and regulatory provisions. The list of suspended statutes includes AS 38.05.850 which authorizes the state to grant easements and rights-of-way for roads, pipelines, and other facilities associated with the extraction of minerals. Under…
The U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) recently issued a memorandum stating that settlements, including consent decrees, entered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies can no longer include a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), unless the SEP is expressly authorized by Congress. Companies and individuals accused of violating environmental laws and permits, like Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permits, commonly agree to perform SEPs to fund projects that go beyond compliance instead of paying a higher cash penalty to the U.S. Treasury. Going forward, companies, individuals, and local governments will no longer have SEPs as a settlement option.
To support this policy reversal after more than 30 years, U.S. DOJ cites to the Miscellaneous Receipts Act, which grants only Congress the authority to decide how to appropriate federal funds. The U.S. DOJ views SEPs as federal funds, and, in U.S. DOJ’s opinion, the EPA and other federal agencies lack the authority to divert those funds to third party recipients and to select the projects that should receive the funds. The power of the purse rests squarely with Congress. “[W]ith SEPs, money otherwise destined for the Treasury finds its way to another destination, not at the insistence of Congress, where the Constitution puts that authority, but instead at the insistence of an administrative agency, or a non-federal entity, or some combination thereof.”
Continue Reading Reversing 30-Year Policy, U.S. DOJ Says Settlements Can No Longer Include Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) has proposed a repeal of regulation changes in 20 AAC 25. of the Alaska Administrative Code. Specific regulations proposed for repeal are as follows: 20 AAC 25.037 well control requirements for other drilling and completion operations; 20 AAC 25.047 reserve pits and tankage; 20 AAC 25.225 potential…
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (“Commission”) announced that it intends to withdraw its simplified proceedings rule effective November 25, 2019. The Commission’s Federal Register announcement is found here.
The simplified proceedings were originally published in a final rule by the Commission on December 28, 2010. The Commission’s intention was to streamline…
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is soliciting public comment regarding potential regulation revisions involving the process for filing and handling appeals and requests for reconsideration under 11 AAC 02.
No specific regulations are being proposed at this time. Rather, DNR is seeking public input and suggestions before the department begins drafting proposed regulations.…
On Monday, September 30, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reinstated an Obama-era rule imposing heightened requirements for health and safety workplace examinations in surface metal and nonmetal mines. The reinstatement represents yet another volley in an already protracted regulatory process spanning two presidential administrations and multiple lawsuits.
The 2017 Obama-era rule, marking one of the administration’s final acts, required that:
- workplace exams had to be completed before miners begin work in the area examined;
- operators had to notify miners in the affected areas of conditions that might adversely affect health and safety;
- operators had to promptly initiate action to correct those adverse conditions;
- the workplace exam records had to include specific information, including, among other things, a description of all conditions found that might adversely affect health or safety and a notation as to when the corrective actions were complete; and
- records of the workplace exams had to be made available to MSHA and miner representatives upon request.
The rule initially went into effect on October 2, 2017. Just three days later, however, MSHA withdrew the rule, delaying the effective date to June 2018.
Following the 2017 election, the Trump administration published a revised rule that featured two key changes. First, examinations could be carried out either before work starts or as work was getting underway. Second, exam records no longer had to document adverse conditions, so long as the conditions were promptly corrected.Continue Reading MSHA Announces Reinstatement of 2017 Obama-Era Rule on Workforce Examinations
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased location and maintenance fees for mining claims on federal lands. The new location fee is $40, and the new maintenance fee is $165 per lode mining claim or site and $165 for each 20 acres or portion thereof for placer mining claims. The due date for all…
On October 4, 2017, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) cannot postpone implementation of natural gas methane emission rules because such action would violate the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). Plaintiffs – the State of California, the State of New Mexico, and a coalition of seventeen conservation and tribal citizens groups (jointly “Plaintiffs”) – initiated the lawsuit in two separate actions. Plaintiffs argued that postponing implementation of the BLM’s Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule (“Final Rule”) after its effective date violated Section 705 of the APA.
Continue Reading Trump’s BLM Cannot Delay Implementation of Oil and Gas Methane Rules after Effective Date