Surface Mining:

Information on the Updated Abandoned Mine Land Inventory

RCED-88-196BR: Published: Jul 22, 1988. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement's (OSMRE) procedures for updating the national inventory of abandoned coal mine land problem areas, focusing on the: (1) role and composition of the inventory update committee; (2) criteria OSMRE used to determine a problem area's priority for inclusion in the national inventory; and (3) procedures OSMRE used to screen problem areas to ensure that it would place only those areas that affected public health, safety, and general welfare in the inventory.

GAO found that: (1) OSMRE established the committee to review state-nominated problem areas for inclusion in the national inventory; (2) the committee was to identify inconsistencies existing between the OSMRE field office reviews and omissions of required data that the field offices overlooked; and (3) although four OSMRE staff members were to comprise the committee, during its 22 meetings from August 1984 to October 1987, participation ranged from 3 to 6 OSMRE staff members, with 14 different staff members participating at one time or another. GAO also found that: (1) an OSMRE inventory manual outlined the criteria to determine the reclamation priority of problem areas; (2) OSMRE used the state reports to allocate the federal portion of the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund; (3) OSMRE included lands that presented environmental restoration problems but did not threaten public welfare in the inventory, but did not use such lands to allocate funds; and (4) OSMRE developed various quality control procedures to review state reports. In addition, GAO found that: (1) most state and OSMRE officials believed that the inventory was too inconsistent to use as a basis to allocate grants to states, since states' relative reclamation needs differed; (2) OSMRE tightened the requirements and did not reevaluate submissions approved prior to the change; and (3) states found inconsistencies in OSMRE field office reviews.

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