BY World's Editorial Writers
Saturday, July 16, 2011
7/16/11 at 3:34 AM
Oklahoma's congressional delegation has written the head of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, claiming that the federal agency is trying to kill the state's coal mining industry. The delegation's fears appear to be valid.
The letter quotes from a leaked draft of an environmental impact statement on a proposed stream-protection rule: "The reasonable, foreseeable development scenario for coal production in the United States the (preferred option) is for no new mining activity in (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma)... ."
The congressmen also charge that the federal agency is attempting to override Oklahoma's own enforcement program, which it is not legally empowered to do.
Coal mining already is on the wane in Oklahoma, and it doesn't need a negative push from the feds.
According to an Oklahoma Department of Mines website, coal production in the state declined from its peak of 5.73 million tons in 1981 to 979,000 tons last year. Historically, Oklahoma coal, which is hot-burning and high in sulphur, was shipped to out-of-state electric plants. Recently, however, most of it is burned in cement and lime kilns within the state.
Coal was produced in 2010 by four companies at nine sites in LeFlore, Rogers, Haskell, Craig, Nowata and Okmulgee counties. More than half came from two mines in LeFlore County.
Even though the industry is on the decline here, killing it would cost eastern Oklahoma about 260 high-wage jobs.
Those jobs are in rural counties that can ill-afford to lose them. It also would force some local industries to make other, possibly more expensive, fuel arrangements.
We're with the congressional delegation: The federal regulator ought to back off its drastic and costly position.