John Henry Coal Mine
Updated Through July 8, 2021
JOHN HENRY MINE #1 (Surface Coal Mine)
On July 1, 2021, Pacific Coast Coal Company (PCCC) agreed to a legal settlement with Puget Soundkeeper requiring permanent closure of the John Henry Number 1 Coal Mine (see: https://pugetsoundkeeper.org/2021/07/01/black-diamond-coal-mine-agrees-to-permanent-closure/).
On November 12, 2019, KC Executive Constantine sent a Comment Letter to the federal OSMRE: KC Exec – JHM – Permit Revision Comment Letter.
A general site map of the John Henry Mine #1 property (roughly 30700 Black Diamond – Ravensdale Road) is presented below and may be accessed here in jpg format: John Henry Mine #1 – Site Map
The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement (OSMRE) approved the Significant Revision and Renewal Application for the John Henry No. 1 Mine on April 18, 2018; visit the OSMRE Document Library to view the approval letter and environmental decision documents: John Henry Mine Documents.
The GMVUAC has been tracking the proposed re-start of surface coal mining at the John Henry Mine located between Ravensdale and Black Diamond. Relevant documents available include the federal Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for this project. The OSMRE is the lead agency; however, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) have substantial interests in this proposal and have each submitted detailed comments to the federal OSMRE. For an overview of what OSMRE is and what it does, please read the following summary: Federal OSMRE Regulatory Overview . The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) is in the process of preparing a new NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) waste discharge permit for the JHM #1. For more information from the DOE, please click on this link: DOE NPDES Permit Notice of Application . The DOE Facility Summary website, including the permit renewal application, may be accessed here: DOE Pacific Coast Coal Company – Facility Summary . To get on the DOE’s contact list regarding your opportunity to review and comment on its proposed NPDES permit, when available, please submit your request via the following email address: email@example.com (public notice will also be provided via local newspaper). The Environmental Assessment, initial OSMRE comments, and the comments on this proposal submitted by the GMVUAC, DPER, and DNR may be viewed here: John Henry Mine Environmental Assessment ; 2014 OSMRE Application Review ; 2014 GMVUAC Comment Letter ; 2014 DPER Comment Letter ; 2017 DPER Comment Letter ; 2017 DNR Comment Letter .
At our August 6 meeting the following individuals and agencies participated in a very well given and received series of presentations followed by a question and answer session during which Council members and public attendees asked many pointed questions and the participants gave professional and informative responses (when approved and posted, please read the detailed Minutes of this meeting for more specific details) — each of the following guests is welcome back to any future Council meetings and provide updates: Pacific Coast Coal Company (David J. Morris, P.E., President; Barry C. Kombol, Attorney at Law, Officer/Director); Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Alyssa Barton); King County DPER (Jim Chan, P.E., Interim Director), and the State Department of Ecology (Monika Kannadaguli, P.E., Facility Manager for PCCC; Gerald Shervey, P.E., Water Quality – Industrial Unit Supervisor; Rachel McCrea, Water Quality – Section Manager). Presentation materials may be accessed and viewed here: PCCC (3 MB pptx) – August 6_PCCC Presentation ; PUGET SOUNDKEEPER ALLIANCE (pdf) – August 6_PSKA Presentation_Barton John Henry Pres ; KC DPER (pdf) – August 6_KCDPER Presentation_GRDE15-0112 Location August 6_KCDPER Presentation_Vicinity Map TIR Figure 1-1 August 6_KCDPER Presentation_Mine Plan August 6_KCDPER Presentation_GRDE15-0112 ; DOE (pdf) – August 6_DOE Presentation_MK 20180806 August 6_DOE Presentation_John HenrySiteMap August 6_DOE Presentation_GWmonitInfo August 6_DOE Presentation_pcccgwres1986-87 (Note that the DOE 1986-87 historical ground water quality data illustrates how variable and heterogeneous ground water can be spatially and over time; and that manganese, iron, and arsenic all exceeded drinking water standards in some wells before the mine opened. According to DOE, the permit uses triggering levels in relation to ground water monitoring rather than limits, and exceeding 95% of historical data two months in a row triggers some follow up investigation. Per DOE, the triggering levels have apparently not been exceeded two months in a row since this condition was added to the permit in 1992).
The following general status update is contained in correspondence from the federal OSMRE dated on or about April 21, 2018, sent by Mychal Yellowman, P.E., Indian Lands & Washington Program Branch Manager, Western Region Program Support Division, 1999 Broadway Suite 3320, Denver, CO 80202-3050. For further information, please contact Mr Yellowman at firstname.lastname@example.org :
“Pacific Coast Coal Company (PCCC) (owner of the John Henry Mine), submitted a permit revision application to our office to resume mining operations. Specifically, PCCC plans to resume mining and remove an estimated 462,000 processed short tons over a 6-year period and disturb an additional 29.7 acres of surface within their current permit area. PCCC also submitted a permit renewal application, which OSMRE placed on administrative delay while it conducted its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis of the revision to resume mining. OSMRE completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was signed on April 16, 2018. Those documents can be found on our website at: OSMRE – John Henry Mine . The John Henry Mine reclamation plan is located in the John Henry Permit Application Package (PAP) which can be reviewed at our Olympia Field Office or here in our Denver Office. We will be converting the paper PAP into an electronic format so it can be placed on our website. OSMRE approved the permit renewal application on April 17, 2018 and the permit revision on April 18, 2018. PCCC has other permits from other agencies that it needs prior to removing coal. Please contact me if you have any additional questions.”
Although OSMRE did not directly participate in our August 6 meeting, by email dated August 4th, Glenn Waugh, OSMRE Senior Regulatory Program Specialist, U.S. Department of the Interior, Manager – Olympia Area Office, provided the following responses to several questions posed by the Council:
“I have been given authority to provide a response to questions #1 and #3 as posed in your August 2nd email. Concerning question #2 [what are the permitting responsibilities of the State and King County going forward?], only the appropriate State of Washington agencies and King County can answer what, if any, permitting responsibilities they may place on the John Henry No. 1 Mine going forward. With regard to question #4 [what statutory discretion does the State possess under RCW 78.44.055 to assume primary responsibility for the permitting and oversight of surface coal mining?], should the State of Washington wish to assume exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations, it must submit to the Secretary of the Interior a program that demonstrates its capability of carrying out the provisions of Section 503 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). Additionally, the State must comply with the regulatory requirements at 30 CFR Part 731, regarding procedures for the preparation and submission of a state regulatory program to the Secretary of the Interior for review and approval.
Question #1: What role does the Federal OSMRE play in the potential renewal of coal mining operations?
Response #1: As you know, the U. S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), is the lead permitting agency for surface coal mining and reclamation operations within the State of Washington. 30 CFR Part 947 addresses the regulatory provisions governing the Washington Program. Specifically, 30 CFR Part 947.773 addresses requirements for permits and permit processing and 30 CFR Part 947.774 addresses procedures for revision, renewal, and transfer of permits rights. The operator, Pacific Coast Coal Company (PCCC), submitted an application to OSMRE on July 29, 2016, seeking to renew the permit for the John Henry No. 1 Mine. After conducting an administrative review and a technical review, OSMRE informed other State, Local and Federal agencies of PCCC’s intent and requested that these agencies provide any comments they may have. Subsequently, PCCC initiated publication of notices in the Voice of the Valley newspaper of the availability of the permit renewal application for review and comment. After the comment period closed on September 22, 2017, with OSMRE not receiving any comments or requests for an informal conference, PCCC’s application to renew Permit WA-0007D was approved on April 17, 2018. The renewed permit, WA-0007E, is effective retroactively to December 7, 2016 and expires on December 7, 2019. PCCC has the legal right to seek renewal of this permit in accordance with 30 CFR Part 947. 774.
Question #3: What reclamation activities are required and planned?
Response #3: On April 18, 2011, PCCC submitted to OSMRE a permit revision application to reinitiate surface coal mining operations at the John Henry No. 1 Mine. As part of that application, PCCC, in Chapter III, titled, Operation and Reclamation Plan, identified it’s plans for reclamation at the mine at Section 3.5. Essentially, the reclamation plans are similar to the reclamation plans previously approved by OSMRE. There will be a final pit lake in its current location with a riparian zone sloping at 3-4h:1v down to 8 feet below the water level. Pit 2 will be back filled and graded to the approximate original topography with material from Spoil Piles 2, 3 North and 3 South. The sedimentation ponds will be removed and reclaimed. Material from Spoil Pile 1 will be utilized to complete reclamation of Pit 1. The coal preparation plant and shale crushing facility, along with some of the other infrastructure components are to be removed with the main haul road scheduled for retention. The post-mining land use is forestry.”
Although no representative from the State Department of Natural Resources was able to attend and participate in our August 6 meeting, by email dated August 3, 2018, we received from Dave Norman, LG, LEG, LHG, State Geologist/Division Manager, Washington Geological Survey, DNR, the following important agency position information regarding the possibility of future State regulatory primacy pursuant to the discretionary authority legislatively granted DNR pursuant to RCW 78.44.055:
“[I]t is still possible for the Washington DNR to assume primacy for coal mine reclamation. However, with just 1 proposed or no coal mines in the state it is not economically feasible at this time. I have investigated this is [sic] in the past and it would take both significant money and time for training of staff before we could assume primacy. It was estimated to be about a 5 year process and with little to no coal mining in the state it did not seem practicable. OSM no longer has the staff or funds in place for the [sic] training the states to acquire primacy so Washington would need to pay. However, if there was a renewal of increased coal mining in Washington we would be interested in taking primacy, but each situation would have to be evaluated so that we could pay for the program.”
The Washington Department of Natural Resources has compiled extensive maps of coal mining sites throughout the State. Select this link to view the general Coal Mine Map Collection: WDNR – Coal Mine Map Collection . Select this link to access and view specific coal mine sites: Washington Geologic Information Portal – Coal Mines .
The GMVUAC will continue to post updates regarding this proposal as such become available.