Joint Procedures Framework MOU for Surface Coal Mining Permit Applications
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination among the agencies responsible for reviewing and processing Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 dredge and fill permits. The purpose of the MOU is to provide a framework for establishing more coordinated procedures to improve the decision-making process for surface coal mining permit applications received pursuant to SMCRA and CWA Section 404. These agencies believe the MOU is important to:
- increase predictability and transparency in the permit process, and
- enhance the environmental review of proposed surface mining activities affecting the waters of the United States.
The MOU encourages development of joint procedures between COE Districts and SMCRA regulatory agencies, in coordination with EPA, FWS, and other appropriate agencies, to facilitate concurrent and coordinated review and processing of surface coal mining permit applications. Joint procedures may describe how agencies would:
- participate in pre-application meetings,
- coordinate the sequencing of CWA 404 and SMCRA permit application processes,
- frame procedures to coordinate technical review and analysis, and
- create a joint application form that would satisfy the informational needs of CWA Section 404 and SMCRA permitting requirements.
The goal of such procedures, facilitated by this MOU, is to improve decision-making by making the permit process:
- more transparent and available to the public,
- more predictable and understandable for the regulated community, and
- reliant on sound scientific information.