Simplifying the Federal Coal Management Program

EMD-81-109: Published: Aug 20, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Department of the Interior's regulations for the management of existing federal coal leases and preference right lease applications (PRLA's). The objective was to identify regulatory modifications that could simplify and ultimately enhance the timely and orderly development of coal on existing coal leases and PRLA's. The subjects of principal concern to GAO were: (1) the difficulties in implementing requirements for maximum economic recovery (MER); (2) the regulatory requirements for diligent development; (3) the designation of leases as logical mining units (LMU's); (4) duplication of effort in environmental review of coal mine plans; and (5) the lack of data needed to meet regulatory requirements for processing PRLA's.

GAO found that: (1) the existing and proposed regulations on MER were unnecessarily burdensome and almost impossible to administer; (2) the lack of flexibility in regulations directed at achieving more diligent development of existing federal coal leases could be adversely affecting certain leases; (3) many of the leases designated as LMU's do not qualify as such, and the Interior authority for making these designations is questionable; (4) in some instances, the mine plan review process was being reviewed by more than one organization, resulting in duplicate documents; and (5) the processing of many leases could be expedited by waiving certain regulations that were not in effect at the time the lease applications were submitted.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should redefine MER and examine the implementing regulations with a view toward keeping the regulations and their administration as simple as possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should revise the PRLA regulations to eliminate the inherent conflicts and to provide for a more expeditious means of administering and disposing of the outstanding PRLA's.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should consider, in the analysis of coal leasing regulations, possible ways of eliminating costly and time consuming duplication in the environmental review process.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct that existing leases be formed into LMU's based on definitive criteria that consider owner's consent, tract size, and geology, rather than on arbitrary and universal criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should consider incorporating in Interior regulations provisions providing for relaxation of the diligence requirements when market conditions or other factors beyond the lessees' control make strict compliance with existing diligence requirements impractical.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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