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IX REGULATOPY AND SOCIAL ISSUES More than HO federal agencies, bureaus, and commissions have some role in energy regulations and approximately one- third are directly concerned with coal extraction. (See Appendix C for a list of the government agencies and their responsibilities.) Agencies often are organized around soire specific mission or regulatory objective (e.g., health and safety, environmental control, or land use), and within one agency, several departments may be involved (e.g., the Department of the Interior includes the Mine Enforcement and Safety Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Bureau of Mines). Dissatisfaction exists in organizations directly affected by regulations. Industry frequently claims that they favor environmentalists while environmentalists claim the opposite. Consumer groups believe that the major companies have too much influence with the regulatory agencies while the agencies find that it is necessary to deal closely with the industry to solve the problems. The fact is that no group has adequate credibility with the public. The coal mining industry has been hampered by the multiplicity of agencies and the proliferation of permits, forms, and impact statements that must be prepared before new operations can be undertaken. In addition, planning requirements have been changing at an increasing rate. Mines must be planned years in advance and involve commitments of millions of dollars. Much of this new production will come from the West where federal agencies play a vital part since the government owns much of the coal land. Congress enacted legislation in 1970 (Public Law 91-631) that provided for a continuing policy in the national interest to foster and encourage private enterprise in: (1) the development of an economically sound and stable domestic mining industry; (2) the orderly and economical development of resources, reserves, and reclamation to satisfy industrial security and environmental needs; (3) mining research, including recycling to promote wide and efficient 61
use of natural mineral resources; and (4) the development and study of methods of disposal, control, and reclamation of mineral waste products and reclamation of mined land. This law has not received the attention it deserves in light of the growing need for greater coal production. In addition to federal agencies, the mining industry also must deal with state and local governments on such matters as zoning, land management, and reclamation, and delays frequently result. Similarly, regulatory litigation frequently causes delays during the judicial process. Another form of regulation that affects the economics of mining is the use of severance taxes. Coal production now is being increased to supplement the available amount of oil and gas, and the communities in existing mining areas are beginning to be improved. The mistakes of the past must not be repeated when new mining areas are opened, and this means that the coal consumer must be willing to pay the full cost of production, including the maintenance of reasonable social and environmental conditions for the workers. The rapid increase in the cost of coal during the past five years is evidence that changes in this direction are taking place. Recent technological advances in many areas have been substantial. Mining methods and health and safety standards have been greatly improved. The use of the continuous miner, longwall mining, and roof bolting, and tetter ventilation as well as increased application of surface mining all contribute to increased safety. Higher coal prices coupled with reasonable regulation will make it possible to meet the problems of refuse disposal, acid mine water, and surface restoration. Miner income and benefits now are high compared to other industries, and workers can afford better housing and the development of more attractive communities, provided they have employment continuity. A serious effort should be made by labor, management, and the government to encourage employment continuity as well as diversity of industry in raining areas, which will help to enhance the communities and provide a sustaining and alternative economic base during times of low coal production. The ready availability of fuel may assist in doing this. In opening new areas for mining in western states, proper community and area planning in most cases is a necessity. Reasonable separation of the mining and coal transportation activities from the communities should be an important consideration. Mine management, considering laborÂ»s needs, should participate in the planning and establishment of housing, roads, water supply and sewage, schools, medical facilities, community and coroirercial 62
buildings, and other facilities. Management should work closely with the appropriate state, county, and city political bodies to find suitable ways and means for providing adequate front-end and ongoing capital and operating funds for the potentially impacted areas. Maximum and wise use of existing and future tax revenues coupled with their equitable distribution to specific areas of need should help communities provide for needed services; however, finding suitable means for providing adequate front-end capital on a timely basis prior to and during the development of the mining operation is the most serious problem to be addressed and other industries should be encouraged to lend their support. Such orderly development and planning will help alleviate opposition froir the existing population by preventing a deterioration of their quality of life and, in fact, may result in coirmunity and cultural improvements that otherwise might now occur. 63