Christopher Holmes, the OSM media contact, said OSM is asking for public comment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. This act states that in order for a governing body to make any decisions which will impact the environment, the governing body must first receive public comment on the matter.
This is why public comment is so important, Holmes said. He said with these comments, OSM will further be able to refine their future regulation.
He said OSM has been working on the issue of stream protection for a long time trying to update the regulations on dumping coal waste into streams.
“We want the regulation to be designed to protect the environment and the people from the adverse affects of coal mining,” Holmes said.
Holmes said he understands the impact a ruling like this one could have on coal mining areas, especially in Kentucky.
“Clearly this rule will have a huge impact in Kentucky,” Holmes said. He added, however, that this rule would apply to all coal mines throughout the country, and will have to address the needs of communities and people outside of Appalachia as well.
Holmes said OSM is looking forward to hearing from the public all over the United States about this issue. They are planning to host nine open house meetings in eight separate states. One of these open houses will be in Hazard.
He said these open houses are not the same as an open meeting, though. In an open meeting, a microphone is set up and people are able to give comments publicly and openly.
At the open house meetings, Homes said, a draft of the environmental impact statement OSM is working on will be available for public scrutiny, along with other information regarding this issue. The public will be given time to process this information and then asked to make comments to OSM either through writing or by recording it.
“We want the public comment,” Holmes said. “This will be a very orderly and quiet way for the public to have an impact.”
He added that people may also submit comments through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submitting comments this way will be “very helpful” to OSM, he said.
“I’m looking forward to the public giving their opinions and thoughts [on this matter],” Holmes said.
Holmes said creating a new regulation for the mining industry would be a long process, and that receiving public comment is one of the earliest stages of the process.
“This is a very long road we are traveling,” Holmes said.
The open house in Hazard will be at the Hazard Community and Technical College on July 26 at 3 p.m.