« PreviousContinue »
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Well, hardly any. And when you actually look at the backlog of money that they haven't spent, it adds up. We're talking about over $200 million currently unobligated. The money has been awarded to the States. They just simply have not obligated it.
Mr. YATES. What amount of money will be available in Fiscal Year 1989 for construction grants?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Well, there will be approximately $100 million available for construction grants to the States. This includes design, administration and construction.
Mr. YATES. Plus the carryover.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Right. Plus any carryover which, at this point is substantial.
MINIMUM LEVEL PROGRAMS
Mr. YATES. Currently OSM has embarked on a minimum funding level program. How many States fall into this category?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. There are seven States that participate in the minimum level program.
Mr. YATES. Is seven a good number to have in this category? Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Well, the reason for the increase-Mr. YATES. Last year you thought it would be four. Mr. CHRISTENSEN (continuing). From four to seven this year is because of the inventory update.
Mr. YATES. Has OSM analyzed how many states would be eligible if the minimum funding level were reduced to $1,250,000 or $1 million? Mr. CHRISTENSEN. We believe that the figure would be five.
ALLOCATIONS AND THE AML INVENTORY Mr. YATES. How does this affect the overall State grant allocations for Fiscal Year 1989?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Obviously, it transfers money away from other States so that the minimum program States can administer an adequate program. Our concern is if States choose to run an AML
program, that they have to have enough money to administer it, to design the work, and actually do the construction. Some of these minimum level States had enough money to do the administration and design work, but they didn't
have money for construction. Mr. YATES. Can you state with some certainty that all field office directors gave the same instruction to the States in updating the inventory?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Well, yes. The same instructions went out to all the States. If there was a concern-
Mr. YATES. When was that?
be that maybe what we should have done, looking back on it, is bring everybody together, both our staff and the State staffs, and said: "Let's discuss these instructions and agree on what we will allow in the inventory. If we decide to keep the inventory open, this is how we'd like to proceed.”
I could give you a copy of the manual that was sent out to the States and our field office staffs.
WEST VIRGINIA INVENTORY UPDATE
Mr. YATES. Why did West Virginia go up so high? It went from $78 million to $2,332,000,000.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. There was an historic problem with West Virginia's inventory. For years they simply had not taken the time to do it right. Whenever they would submit something, it was rejected because it hadn't been done correctly.
Recently, the State decided to take it very seriously when we put out these new guidelines. They made a concerted effort to correctly update their inventory and do it right. The data that they submitted to us we have field-checked, and we feel very confident that what they have submitted is appropriate.
Mr. YATES. Is the location of spent shotgun shells sufficient evidence of visitation to reclaim a highwall? That's apparently the basis for which Ebenezer Run's high walls were accepted.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. The reason that is one of the things they look at is because their presence indicates that there are a lot of hunters and hikers in the area. So, it can become a hazard and people are concerned about eliminating the highwall.
Mr. YATES. How do you know there are a lot of hunters? It depends on the number of shells I guess.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Well, that's one of the things they look at.
Mr. YATES. Either that or there was one hunter who shot a lot. [Laughter.]
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Mr. Chairman, West Virginia has documented this very carefully, with regard to the number of hunter hours and where the hunting was going on. They have documented exactly why they have been able to justify their position.
Mr. YATES. Why isn't that in your report? That isn't in your report. Mr. CHRISTENSEN. It's in the backup data.
NATIONAL COMMITTEE REVIEW AND GUIDLINES
And would you place in the record the specific guidelines that you gave the States on reclamation?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Certainly. They're right here.
Mr. YATES. No. That's not what we want. What we want is the explanation to the States as to how they are to reclaim the project. Do you not have regulations on that?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I can provide it for the record. Mr. YATES. Okay, that's what we want. Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Okay. [The information follows:] General guidance is provided to the state regulatory authority by the appropriate field office. This is generally done only when the state regulatory authority requests such advice. It may include advice on how to best package an AML project for approval or it may be technical advice on how a project should be designed. Most states have had sufficient experience with designing, gaining approval, and carrying out AML projects so that little OSMRE input is necessary.
We are currently searching our files for any general or specific advice we have given to states on AML projects. When we have completed our file search, any guidance found will be forwarded to the Committee.
Mr. YATES. Can you tell us why there are no State representatives on the national committee that reviewed these entries?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Mr. Chairman, for the last several years we've been going through this inventory, we felt it would put States in a difficult position to review other States' submissions and then try to decide what should be accepted and what should not. Looking back on our decision, I think that was a mistake. If we decide to redo the inventory, we would certainly include them on the committee.
Mr. YATES. What did the committee review? Can you tell us? I read from a memorandum dated December 24, 1984, to the National Inventory Update Review Committee from James Evans, Chairman of the National Committee-item 4. It says, “The committee decided that questioning whether a specific reclamation technique was the best method was not appropriate.” Wasn't that their job?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. No. They weren't concerned about how they did the reclamation as much as was it necessary to do. That's the decision they were to pass on.
Mr. YATES. Why would it be important for them to know how to do the reclamation?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. It is not our primary concern, Mr. Chairman, to do the design work for the States. That's basically for them to do. We don't want to assume the liability of telling them how to design the work. That's for them.
Mr. YATES. Why was Missouri told to consider reclaiming a project by backfilling through a resubmittal to obtain maximum credit for this problem?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I'm not sure what you're looking at. I don't believe I'm familiar with this particular case.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I think we were giving them some general guidance on how to submit their proposal, and forwarded some ideas on the best way to present their project proposal. That's what it looks like. I haven't seen this document before.
Mr. YATES. Isn't that a reclamation technique? Mr. CHRISTENSEN. It would look like it is. Mr. YATES. It's a deviation from the norm. Mr. CHRISTENSEN. It sounds like it. If you would like some additional information on this case, we will provide it to you.
Mr. YATES. Sure. (The information follows:) The National Committee comment regarding Missouri PAD Number MO-0056 states that the State could consider backfilling rather than guardrails as the reclamation method. In this case, it appears that the National Committee was saying that guardrails abate the problem but backfilling is the form of reclamation that completely eliminates the problem.
These sites in PAD MO-0056 are located in a residential area where children are present on a regular basis. While the guardrail could have solved the problem of dangerous road conditions next to the highwall, a guardrail would have no effect on
preventing children and other visitors from taking a serious fall over the highwall which in many cases exceeded fifteen feet in height. It appears that the committee felt that the only solution to the possible falling problem would be to completely eliminate the highwall through backfilling, a more expensive but permanent and full abatement treatment. While it was not standard practice for the committee to recommend alternative abatement techniques occasionally the committee took this action when a particular situation seemed to warrant such action. The Missouri situation was an example of one of these cases.
AML INVENTORY SAMPLE SIZE Mr. YATES. Did the national committee change in any way a sample size which was used by the field office when reviewing the State proposals? And if not, on what basis could the national committee determine the validity of the information?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. The committee was looking at a sample of everything that was submitted by the States. They looked at it in increments of certain dollar amounts. If they found an inconsistency then they would look closer and send the package back to the State, saying you need to resubmit this proposal because there are inconsistencies.
Mr. YATES. Why would the national committee separate the highwall claims rather than combining them into one claim? The total would be $1,587,700 if added together, but they permitted separate entries for the same highwall. I wonder why they would do that.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I'll have to provide that for the record, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATES. All right. Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I'm not familiar with the case. Mr. Yates. Provide that for the record. [The information follows: West Virginia PAD #3952 (Ebenezer Highwall #1) was received in the Charleston, West Virginia OSMRE Field Office July 31, 1987, at a cost of $1,306,200. Field review on August 6, 1987 resulted in a recommendation by OSMRE to reduce the height to 50 feet maximum. This recommendation was transmitted to the State on August 12, 1987. The State subsequently agreed and reduced the cost to $933,000 and the projects was approved and entered into the inventory.
Ebenezer Highwall #1 is one of a series of ten dangerous highwalls running for over three-fourths of a mile in length in a semi-rural rolling countryside. The height of the highwall ranges from 80 feet to 15 feet. The area is frequented by hunters and hikers throughout the year. Ebenezer #1 was considered the most dangerous of a total of ten separate segments each of which has been identified as a distinct prob lem area. Eight other segments are presently included in the inventory and identified as West Virginia 3953 through 3961. The tenth segment is presently under review for inclusion by our Charleston Field Office.
The same reclamation treatment, reduction of the dangerous highwall through backfilling and slope grading together with installation of protective fencing at the crest and sides of the highwall is contemplated for all segments. Work on Ebenezer #1 is due to start within the next four to six weeks.
The decision was made to treat this as a segmented project with ten distinct prob lem area definitions because 1) the highwall is intersected at three places by rightof-ways and in one place by a state highway requiring the definition of slope to be considerably different from segment to segment, and 2) the variation in highwall height from 80 to 15 feet creates a sawtoothed exposure requiring different grades of fill and topsoil compaction making it expensive and difficult to slope and compact as one segment. The State of West Virginia feels because of the extensiveness and complexity of treatment no single contractor in the area would be willing or able to bid the whole project.
AUDIT STAFF FOR AML DEBT
Mr. YATES. What is the size of the field audit staff which will be inded in Fiscal Year 1989?
Mr. BOLDT. The full size of that staff is 63. That includes auditors nd support staff.
Mr. YATES. And how many field locations will there be from hich field operations are conducted?
Mr. BOLDT. We will have auditors stationed at nine different loations next year.
Mr. YATES. Now, in Fiscal Year 1987, the justification says there tre $15 million outstanding in abandoned mine land debts. Are you loing anything to collect these funds?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. We are making the same efforts on AML deinquent debt as we are on the civil penalty debt.
Mr. Yates. Have you determined what portion of the funds are incollectible?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. About 3 percent.
Mr. Yates. Well, that's pretty good then, isn't it? It's not like the other fund.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. No, because it's much more current debt.
Mr. YATES. At what point do you turn the collection of that over to private agencies?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. After 90 days.
COST RETURN ON AML DEBT
Mr. Boldt. We have a brand new contract. On the average it represents about 25 percent of the amount collected.
Mr. YATES. Do these ever get to a court trial?
Mr. Boldt. Yes, sir. At the present time we have about $9 to $10 million in judgments that we are trying to collect.
Mr. YATES. Are the companies still in existence?
Mr. BOLDT. A lot of them are not and of those that are, quite a few of them are in bankruptcy. If we get a judgment from the court, then we can file a claim with the Bankruptcy Court for the funds.
EMERGENCY PROJECTS Mr. YATES. Can you give us examples of unusual circumstances that might increase the obligations for emergency projects?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. There are numerous reasons: a major subsidence, perhaps a major mine fire, a landslide, those kinds of things. But these expenditures for emergency projects have been highly stabilized since our new policy which limits the way we deal with emergencies. Currently, we only address the immediate emergency and ask the State to take care of the rest of the problem through the regular grant request.
Mr. YATES. Why does the budget not provide funding for RAMP even for completion of current construction projects?