Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Transmitting Proposed Surface Mining Legislation.
OUR Nation is faced with the need to find the right balance among a number of very desirable national objectives. We must find the right balance because we simply cannot achieve all desirable objectives at once.
In the case of legislation governing surface coal mining activities, we must strike a balance between our desire for environmental protection and our need to increase domestic coal production. This consideration has taken on added significance over the past few months. It has become clear that our abundant domestic reserves of coal must become a growing part of our Nation's drive for energy independence.
Last December, I concluded that it would not be in the Nation's best interests for me to approve the surface coal mining bill which passed the 93rd Congress as S. 425. That bill would have:
• Caused excessive coal production losses, including losses that are not necessary to achieve reasonable environmental protection and reclamation requirements. The Federal Energy Administration estimated that the bill, during its first full year of operation would reduce coal production between 48 and 141 million tons, or approximately 6 to 18 percent, of the expected production. Additional losses could result which cannot be quantified because of ambiguities in the bill. Losses of coal production are particularly important because each lost ton of coal can mean importing four additional barrels of foreign oil.
• Caused inflationary impacts because of increased coal costs and Federal expenditures for activities which, however desirable, are not necessary at this time.
• Failed to correct other deficiencies that had been pointed out in executive branch communications concerning the bill.
The energy program that I outlined in my State of the Union Message contemplates the doubling of our Nation's coal production by 1985. Within the next ten years my program envisions opening 250 major new coal mines the majority of which must be surface mines, and the construction of approximately 150 new coal fired electric generating plants. I believe that we can achieve these goals and still meet reasonable environmental protection standards.
I have again reviewed S. 425 as it passed the 93rd Congress (which has been reintroduced in the 94th Congress as S. 7 and H.R. 25) to identify those provisions of the bill where changes are critical to overcome the objections which led to my disapproval last December. I have also identified a number of provisions of the bill where changes are needed to reduce further the potential for unnecessary production impact and to make the legislation more workable and effective. These few but important changes will go a long way toward achieving precise and balanced legislation. The changes are summarized in the first enclosure to this letter and are incorporated in the enclosed draft bill.
With the exception of the changes described in the first enclosure, the bill follows S. 425.
I believe that surface mining legislation must be reconsidered in the context of our current national needs. I urge the Congress to consider the enclosed bill carefully and pass it promptly.
GERALD R. FORD
Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Carl Albert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Honorable Nelson A. Rockefeller, President of the Senate; The summary of the proposed legislation was included as part of the release.
Gerald R. Ford, Letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate Transmitting Proposed Surface Mining Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/257330