Citizens Coal Council organizes historic meeting with DOI Secretary Jewell


Testimony from the meeting:

OSM-BLM merger cancelled: victory for coalfield citizens!

After 18 long months, citizens across the US were relieved to hear that the OSM-BLM merger was called off.  Citizens Coal Council played a pivotal role in the outcome, uniting people on the grassroots level in the campaign against the merger.  In May 2013, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior, David Hayes, announced his resignation.  Immediately afterward the decision to call off the merger was announced.


E&E News article: Critics claim near universal opposition to OSM-BLM merger


Critics claim near universal opposition to OSM-BLM merger

Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter

Published: Monday, January 30, 2012

Environmental activists, industry leaders and state regulators expressed skepticism today about folding the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement into the Bureau of Land Management.

 This morning’s public hearing at Interior Department headquarters in Washington,D.C., was the ninth of 10 stakeholder meetings being held around the country. Despite ongoing efforts to explain their proposal, Obama administration officials do not appear to be chipping away public doubts about the merger.

“We are at a loss to understand what Interior hopes to accomplish,” said Greg Conrad, executive director of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, a union of mining states. He said widespread opposition “speaks volumes about whether Interior should even proceed with this realignment of OSM and BLM functions.”

But Interior officials defended the plan.

“OSM will come out of this stronger, or at least that’s the intent that OSM will come out of this stronger,” said OSM Deputy Director Glenda Owens. “The goal of the consolidation is to improve government efficiency and service.”

The officials say the merger will likely integrate administrative duties. Some core functions of the agencies are also on the table, they say, to combine strengths and promote efficiency.

OSM and BLM may merge mine inspection and enforcement functions, for example. And the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, the agency responsible for collecting money from offshore and onshore mineral leases, may end up handling coal reclamation dollars.

Merger opponents see a contradiction in Interior’s plans, saying the agency’s leaders are proposing to combine key duties while promising to maintain OSM’s integrity.

“The organic acts cannot be amended by secretarial orders, which is what is proposed,” said Louise Dunlap, an environmental advocate who worked for passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. She said the law mandated that OSM’s coal oversight remain separate from hardrock mining.

“Simply stated, the implementation of that order will be illegal,” said attorney Edward Grandis, who also helped push for the SMCRA. “The mission of BLM and the mission of OSMRE cannot be reconciled through the budget process or administrative realignments without an act of Congress.”

Jim Lyon, vice president of conservation policy for the National Wildlife Federation, also blasted the idea. Dunlap and Grandis highlighted his presence as evidence that opposition extends beyond groups that mainly focus on advocating for coalfield residents.

“We must publicly oppose this initiative,”Lyon said. “Folding it into BLM will likely mean less environmental protection, not more.”

Owens tried to reassure the critics. “OSM will remain an independent regulatory entity consistent with the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act,” she said.

The mining industry and many state regulators also object to the proposed merger, seeing it as part of the administration’s agenda to increase oversight. They say the agency could save money by scrapping the controversial forthcoming stream protection rules and stop meddling in state affairs.

“When you merge the entire OSM-BLM functions, you may want to consider discussion not mandating,” saidEdmon Larrimore,Maryland’s mining program director.

Larrimore said the relationship between states and OSM has suffered a rocky patch under the Obama administration. “This attempt by DOI is an example of that deteriorating relationship,” he said.

“It’s just very unusual to see almost every witness come against a proposal like this and still see it move forward,” said Bradford Frisby, associate general counsel for the National Mining Association.

Interior leaders are using the public comments to prepare a report for Secretary Ken Salazar by Feb. 15. They expect this week’s final hearing in Kentucky to be a lively one.

Still, critics say officials should not have advanced this far in merger plans without consulting the public. Salazar’s decision to delay implementing the proposal helped, but skeptics say they are still not convinced their concerns will translate into action.

Asked whether the review team could recommend scrapping the idea, Owens said, “We are in the process right now of formulating the recommendations.”


OSMRE Watch update- January 24, 2012

Sign for OSM/BLM stakeholder meeting outside the National Guard Armory, Charleston, WV (Jan. 19, 2012)

Citizens Coal Council’s Executive Director, Aimee Erickson, is currently traveling the country and meeting with coalfield groups and individual activists in opposition to the proposed OSM-BLM merger.  She will be updating members of the OSMRE Watch as soon as is feasible with her travel schedule.

Here are a few news articles that have been published:

Public News Service: All Sides Suspicious of OSM/BLM Consolidation Plan

Billings Gazette: Environmentalists pan proposed merger of BLM and mining agency

This post will be updated as new articles are released, so please check back!

Urgent Action Needed!

TAKE ACTION!  Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced through Secretarial Order: No. 3315, plans to bury the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Department of the Interior Secretary Salazar needs to hear from citizens living in every coal-impacted region of the country!  He needs to know that attempts to bury the OSM into the BLM is illegal per Section 201 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

Coalfield citizens around the country are concerned with the Secretary’s plan, and we need your help in speaking out against this illegal merger!

Here are just a few reasons why all of us should be concerned with the Secretary’s plans:

  • The Secretary’s decision to merge OSM into BLM was ill-conceived and ignored the decision-making precludes scrutiny, oversight and public participation.
  • The OSM was established by Congress as an independent entity answerable directly to the Secretary of Interior – the Secretary of Interior’s proposal to end OSM’s independence should be rejected.
  • Inherent conflicts exist between the regulatory OSM and BLM’s coal development duties and their cross pollination is expressly forbidden by SMCRA.
  • The Secretary does not have the executive power to bury the OSM within the BLM without Congressional action.

What you can do: 

  • Plan to attend one of the many OSM/BLM Stakeholder Meetings on the proposed consolidation that are scheduled from January 17th to January 31st.  Arrive early and submit verbal comments in opposition to this merger.  Please see suggested Talking Points.
  • If you cannot attend in person, submit written comments through the Department of Interior website by clicking here.

***As of 1/17/2012, the comments submission website has been working sporadically.  We recommend that you copy and paste your comments into a document (.doc or .txt file) just in case the page times out when you try to submit your comments. If you experience any difficulties submitting comments, please click here.***  

  • Forward the OSMRE Watch Blog link ( to your friends, neighbors and networks and ask them to get involved.

Director Pizarchik (OSM) & Director Abbey (BLM) are required to provide a written report to the Secretary on February 15, 2012 based on stakeholder input and consultation. The report will also include any proposed modifications to the Order.

Additional information can be found by clicking here (or click the “OSM-BLM Merger” tab above)

For a printer-friendly version of this action alert, click [here].

For a printer-friendly version of the OSMRE Watch 1/17/2012 press release, click [here], or view below:

See the E&E News article “Activists to express dismay at agency merger meetings” (Manuel Quinones, published January 17, 2012), click [here]