Democratic News

“Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will receive testimony on the Secretary of the Interior’s Order No. 3315 to Consolidate and Establish the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Bureau of Land Management.  This Order was signed by Secretary Salazar on the 26th of October.  I hope that we will all learn more about the purposes and likely effects of this reorganization from today’s witnesses.


“I have heard concerns expressed regarding this reorganization.  Some believe that consolidating the Office of Surface Mining within the BLM could serve to diminish its role and mission.  Others have expressed concern that the reorganization injects uncertainty as to how the program will be administered. 


“The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which is OSM’s ‘organic act,’ was a product of this Committee’s labors, as well as the work of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.  The Surface Mining Act was neither hastily written nor lightly considered.  According to then-Congressman Morris Udall, the bill’s principal author:


“It took six years of tenacity and bitter debate to pass [the Act], involving 183 days of hearings and legislative consideration, 18 days of House action, three House-Senate conferences and reports, 11 conference reports, two Presidential vetoes, [and] about 52 recorded votes in the House and Senate ...”


“The Surface Mining Act sets forth provisions particularly relevant as we consider the Secretary’s Order.  First, that Act explicitly establishes an Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department.  The statute also requires that the Director of OSM be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  Also of note, the Surface Mining Act prohibits the transfer of coal development functions to OSM.  Given this provision, I find it difficult to believe that Congress intended OSM to be an office within the BLM. Indeed, the provision that prohibits the co-mingling of coal development and OSM’s functions argues against this result.


“Again, I look forward to the testimony from our witnesses and to gaining a better understanding of the Secretary’s Order  –  from both a procedural and substantive perspective.  I thank the witnesses for being here, and all others who are present today.”             

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