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Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Mr. Chairman, last year the SCS received sufficient funding to be able to complete all of the projects that they had started.
There is a traditional philosophical difference that we have had with the SCS on how AML money should be spent. As you have heard us say, we would much prefer to give the AML money directly to the State, and if they decide to do the kind of RAMP projects that are done through RAMP, they can do that through the local conservation districts. They can contract with them to do the work. We would rather let the State make those decisions rather than having the SCS make them. The SCS receives the money after which OSMRE doesn't have any control over how it is spent. We have some concern about how SCS spends it.
Mr. YATES. Now, according to your justification, if no funding is appropriated in this fiscal year, you are still going to have 168 projects remaining to be completed by the end of 1992.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. There is still money that hasn't been obligated.
Mr. YATES. How does OSM believe the projects are going to be completed without additional funding? You have got money in the pipeline?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. The design work is done, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the construction work has started.
WEST VIRGINIA INSPECTION STAFFING
Mr. YATES. I see.
West Virginia has got a number of deficiencies in meeting required State inspection. There are violations, issuing failure to abate cessation orders in a timely manner, and not pursuing alternative enforcement actions for cessation orders, which have civil penalties. Are you helping West Virginia correct these deficiencies?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. If you would permit me to digress for a moment
Mr. YATES. Yes.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. In the last six months to a year, the State of West Virginia has been through some budget problems, not just limited to funding their program, but the entire State government. As a result they have had to cut back on the number of people they have actually had available to do this work.
As we speak, my Field Office Director in West Virginia is meeting with the States Secretary of Energy to determine how they are going to deal with the kinds of problems that have been identified in West Virginia.
Mr. YATES. Are they going to need additional resources for that purpose?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I don't know that we will. I think that the State itself may have to come up with additional resources in order to match the kind of funding that we are willing to put into the State to do the job.
Mr. YATES. Are you going to have to assign a troubleshooter to West Virginia?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I don't think that a troubleshooter would be the answer, so much as working directly with the governor's office to make sure they understand their responsibilities.
Mr. YATES. Will you be able to reach a consensus with them on what causes these things?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I believe we will be able to do that; yes, sir.
Mr. YATES. Has the State told you when they propose to hire the necessary number of regulatory personnel to be in compliance with the approved staffing level?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. The disagreement we have with the State is the number of people they need. They believe that the people they got rid of were unnecessary supervisors. They said they had too many supervisors in relation to the number of inspectors. We are working with them to make sure that they understand that these inspectors in the field need supervision and that it takes a certain number of supervisors to do that.
As an example of that, we found that the field inspectors are conducting more than the required number of inspections on the sites. By this I mean that they are going out and inspecting some sites more often than is required. Other sites are getting the number of required inspections. So, it's a management problem more than anything else. This is what we are trying to work with them on.
Mr. Yates. Do you have anything to indicate the State legislature will cooperate in making available funds to help the State come out of this difficulty?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. You have pinpointed part of the problem, Mr. Chairman. They have a highly-charged political situation in the State legislature and the governor's office.
Over this past weekend, the legislature did provide sufficient funds for the Department of Energy for Fiscal Year 1988, but it will continue to be a battle.
PERMITTING IN WEST VIRGINIA Mr. YATES. Apparently it is. On March 10, 1988 the Environmental Policy Institute testified before the Committee. They were concerned with an almost total enforcement breakdown in West Virginia.
How do you respond to allegations that the West Virginia program is approving permits with a rubber stamp?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. I don't believe that's the case. In fact, one of the strongest areas of the West Virginia program is their permitting activity. They do it quickly but thoroughly. They have put a tremendous amount of resources into that effort to make sure that permits are issued correctly.
BLACK GOLD MINE INSPECTION Mr. YATES. Well, how valid are the newspaper stories that say that OSM is reluctant to probe the mines? And article dated February 21, 1988 in the Sunday Gazette-Mail says, “The U.S. Office of Surface Mining is reluctant to investigate and to shut down an illegal Lincoln County strip mine. Last week, the state's top OSM official, James Blankenship, Jr., also ordered federal mine inspector Wayne Dempsey to tone down on inspection report before it is re leased to the public. Dempsey's original report is in the files obtained by the Gazette-Mail.
" 'Jack Nelson, my supervisor, . . . told me Mr. Blankenship didn't like the narrative in my follow-up inspection,' read Dempsey's handwritten notes. 'Jim [Blankenship) said he had to give Paul Nyden of the newspapers a copy and didn't want anything in it detrimental to the state and OSM.
"I told Jack ‘I will omit the parts he don't want because he is your boss and mine, but that I will not be part of the a cover-up for the state by OSM."
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes, I can, Mr. Chairman. Subsequent to all of this the inspector in question has said that he is perfectly content with all of the actions that were taken on this particular permit.
He has gone through an incredible effort of documenting information, but in looking at his documentation, we have found that it is incorrect, that his allegations are incorrect, that they don't stand. The press has picked it up, and reported it like it's fact when, indeed, it's not.
Congressman Rahall is going to have a hearing in West Virginia. This will be part of the discussion. At that point, we hope to be able to submit for the record a defense of exactly what happened on this permit because it has been an issue of concern since No vember of 1987. The field office has been working with the State to make sure they do what needs to be done, and they have, indeed, done what needs to be done.
Mr. YATES. What about Indiana and its program? Have you been monitoring the problems in Indiana?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes, sir. Mr. YATES. What's the result? Has it helped eliminate a number of deficiencies there?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes.
Mr. YATES. Well, staff disagrees with you. Your annual oversight update for July 1, 1987 to December 31, 1987 says, "Indiana has failed to aggressively pursue collection of civil penalties . lack adequate determinations of the probable hydrologic consequences of mining. Indiana is not current in its processing of midterm permit reviews." It "continues to have difficulty with the timeliness of abatement inspections and in establishing appropriate abatement times for violations.'
It doesn't seem to sustain what you are telling us, does it?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. The State of Indiana acknowledges that they have these problems and has agreed to specific action plans with dates to overcome these problems. When we find these problems, we don't just submit a report saying what are you going to do. We go through each item. We concur that a problem exists. Then we ask how the State is going to deal with it and in what time frame? And through these action plans-
Mr. YATES. How long do the violations continue?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. It depends on the nature of the issue. Sometimes it requires a State program amendment. Their program just
Hoesn't adequately address it. This could take up to a year waiting for the legislature to act. It just depends on what the issue is.
Mr. YATES. Your 1986 report shows that the number of units on which required frequency wasn't met was 32. The next year your report showed it was 149. Either you put more inspectors on or there were continuing violations.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Right. That's an area that they are going to have to work harder on to determine how they are going to correct it.
Mr. YATES. We have a lot of questions we want you to answer for the record.
ADEQUACY OF BUDGET REQUEST You are assuring the Committee the budget is large enough? Will it be large enough for Mr. Gentile?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes, sir.
Mr. Yates. It will be large enough for him. Has he told you that? Or has OMB told you that?
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Yes. (Laughter.]
Mr. McDade has some questions for the record. Mr. Regula has some questions too, and I'm sure Mr. Murtha does too.
Thank you very much.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've enjoyed working with you over the past three years.
Mr. YATES. Thank you. I enjoyed working with you too. And we wish you good luck in your new place.
Mr. CHRISTENSEN. Thank you.
OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT
QUESTIONS FOR THE RECORD
REGULATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Applicant Violator System
Mr. Christensen states in his opening remarks, "the quality of data continues to be a problem since much of it is out of date and suffers from a high degree of inaccuracy."
How will OSM address the problems of data quality and
The Applicant Violator System (AVS) data quality improvement project will continue throughout Fiscal Year 1989 in an effort to improve the quality of the data base. The data quality enhancement plan focuses on two primary areas:
Improve the existing data to the extent that the effort
Establish adequate procedures and quality assurance checks to assure the completeness and accuracy of all new information added to the system.
The following briefly describes some of the data quality improvement activities that will be continued through Fiscal Year 1989.
Complete and/or Improve Data: The size of the AVS data base
State Capability to Print Local Data Base: Each regulatory authority will continue to review its entire data base to identify incorrect or missing information for correction. Reviewing the local data base will allow the regulatory