The federal Office of Surface Mining recently released its annual evaluations of the Public Service Commission’s coal regulatory program and the abandoned mine lands program. These evaluations are done annually to assure that the programs are being implemented consistent with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.

“The complimentary language in these reviews emphasizes the outstanding work our Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation teams do throughout the year,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann who holds the coal mining, reclamation, and abandoned mine lands portfolio. “Their efforts are assuring that North Dakota’s landscape will be safe, productive and beautiful for future generations.”

Regarding the coal regulatory program for current mining operations, the evaluation indicated that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues in need of corrective action. The Reclamation Division carries out its duties using the appropriate technical expertise and with a high level of professionalism.”

The evaluation of the abandoned mine lands program said, “the state administers an excellent program in full compliance with their approved plan.” They also state that the program “met the goals of abating hazards and improving site conditions at all projects conducted. These projects have reduced the likelihood of death or injury to property owners and the public.”

The PSC’s abandoned mine reclamation program aims to eliminate hazards related to coal mining that was conducted before the enactment of reclamation laws in the 1970’s. The program is funded by a fee that is collected on all active coal mining operations. PSC staff designs and manages projects each year and contacts the work through a competitive bidding process.

Both programs were headed by Jim Deutsch, who retired at the end of November after 42 years with the Public Service Commission. The Commission appreciates his dedicated efforts and achievements that are obvious in these evaluations. Dean Moos, former Assistant Director in the Reclamation Division, has taken over as director as of December 1.