Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety Standards, 48115-48118 [2017-22270]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Notices Yaspro Electronics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., Room 1808E, No. 488, Vaohua Road, Pudong New District, Shanghai, China (c) The Office of Unfair Import Investigations, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW., Suite 401, Washington, DC 20436; and (4) For the investigation so instituted, the Chief Administrative Law Judge, U.S. International Trade Commission, shall designate the presiding Administrative Law Judge. Responses to the complaint and the notice of investigation must be submitted by the named respondents in accordance with section 210.13 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, 19 CFR 210.13. Pursuant to 19 CFR 201.16(e) and 210.13(a), such responses will be considered by the Commission if received not later than 20 days after the date of service by the Commission of the complaint and the notice of investigation. Extensions of time for submitting responses to the complaint and the notice of investigation will not be granted unless good cause therefor is shown. Failure of a respondent to file a timely response to each allegation in the complaint and in this notice may be deemed to constitute a waiver of the right to appear and contest the allegations of the complaint and this notice, and to authorize the administrative law judge and the Commission, without further notice to the respondent, to find the facts to be as alleged in the complaint and this notice and to enter an initial determination and a final determination containing such findings, and may result in the issuance of an exclusion order or a cease and desist order or both directed against the respondent. Administration (MSHA) by the parties listed below. DATES: All comments on the petitions must be received by MSHA’s Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances on or before November 15, 2017. ADDRESSES: You may submit your comments, identified by ‘‘docket number’’ on the subject line, by any of the following methods: 1. Electronic Mail: zzMSHAcomments@dol.gov. Include the docket number of the petition in the subject line of the message. 2. Facsimile: 202–693–9441. 3. Regular Mail or Hand Delivery: MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, 201 12th Street South, Suite 4E401, Arlington, Virginia 22202–5452, Attention: Sheila McConnell, Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances. Persons delivering documents are required to check in at the receptionist’s desk in Suite 4E401. Individuals may inspect copies of the petition and comments during normal business hours at the address listed above. MSHA will consider only comments postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service or proof of delivery from another delivery service such as UPS or Federal Express on or before the deadline for comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Barron, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances at 202–693– 9447 (Voice), barron.barbara@dol.gov (Email), or 202–693–9441 (Facsimile). [These are not toll-free numbers.] SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 44 govern the application, processing, and disposition of petitions for modification. By order of the Commission. Issued: October 10, 2017. Lisa R. Barton, Secretary to the Commission. I. Background Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) allows the mine operator or representative of miners to file a petition to modify the application of any mandatory safety standard to a coal or other mine if the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) determines that: 1. An alternative method of achieving the result of such standard exists which will at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded the miners of such mine by such standard; or 2. That the application of such standard to such mine will result in a diminution of safety to the miners in such mine. In addition, the regulations at 30 CFR 44.10 and 44.11 establish the requirements and procedures for filing petitions for modification. [FR Doc. 2017–22267 Filed 10–13–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 7020–02–P DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Mine Safety and Health Administration ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory Safety Standards Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: This notice is a summary of petitions for modification submitted to the Mine Safety and Health SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48115 II. Petitions for Modification Docket Number: M–2017–017–C. Petitioner: Paramont Contura, LLC, Three Gateway Center, 401 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222–1000. Mine: Deep Mine 44, MSHA I.D. No. 44–07308, located in Dickenson County, Virginia. Regulation Affected: 30 CFR 75.1700 (Oil and gas wells). Modification Request: The petitioner requests a modification of the existing standard to permit an alternative method of compliance with respect to gas wells. The petitioner proposes to plug and mine through vertically drilled gas wells. The petitioner states that: The following alternative methods will be used when mining through vertically drilled degasification boreholes with horizontal laterals to permit mining through the boreholes. a. The petition will apply to all wells being mined through located within the mineable reserve at Paramount Coal Company’s Deep Mine 44. b. District Manager approval is required for the following proposed alternative methods: (1) A safety barrier of 300 feet in diameter (150 between any mined area and a well) will be maintained around all wells (defined herein to include all active, inactive, abandoned, shut-in, and previously plugged oil and gas wells, and including water injection wells) until approval to proceed with mining has been obtained from the District Manager (DM). Wells that were drilled into potential oil or gas producing formations that did not produce commercial quantities of either gas or oil (wildcat wells or dry holes) are also defined as oil or gas wells. (2) Prior to mining within the safety barrier around any well that is intended to be mined through, the mine operator will provide the DM a sworn affidavit or declaration executed by a company official stating that all mandatory procedures for cleaning out, preparing, and plugging each gas or oil well have been completed as described by the terms and conditions of this petition. The affidavit or declaration must be accompanied by all logs described below and any other records described in those subparagraphs which the DM may request. The DM will review the affidavit or declaration, the logs, and other records that have been requested, and may inspect the well. The DM will determine if the operator has complied with the procedures for cleaning, preparing, and plugging each well as described by the terms and conditions of this petition. If the DM determines E:\FR\FM\16OCN1.SGM 16OCN1 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES 48116 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Notices that the procedures have been complied with, the DM will provide approval and the mine operator may mine within the safety barrier of the well, subject to the terms of this petition. The petitioner states that the terms and conditions of this petition apply to all types of coal mining. c. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures when cleaning out and preparing vertical oil and gas wells prior to plugging or replugging: (1) If the total depth of the well is less than 4,000 feet, the operator will completely clean out the well from the surface to at least 200 feet below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM requires cleaning to a greater depth based on the DM’s judgment as to what is required due to the geological strata, or due to the pressure of the well (the operator will provide the DM with all information it possesses concerning the geological nature of the strata and the pressure of the well). If the total depth of the well is 4,000 feet, or greater, the operator will completely clean out the well from the surface to at least 400 feet below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam. The operator will remove all material from the entire diameter of the well, wall to wall. (2) The operator will prepare downhole logs for each well that will consist of a caliper survey and log(s) suitable for determining the top, bottom, and thickness of all coal seams and potential hydrocarbon producing strata and the location for a bridge plug. The DM may approve the use of a down-hole camera survey in lieu of down-hole logs. In addition, a journal will be maintained describing the depth and nature of each material encountered; bit size and type used to drill each portion of the hole; length and type of each material used to plug the well; length of casings(s) removed, perforated or ripped or left in place, any sections where casing was cut or milled; and other pertinent information concerning cleaning and sealing the well. Invoices, work-orders, and other records relating to all work on the well will be maintained as part of this journal and provided to MSHA on request. (3) When cleaning out the well, the operator will make a diligent effort to remove all of the casing in the well. If it is not possible to remove all of the casing, then the operator must take appropriate steps to ensure that the annulus between the casing and between the casings and the well walls are filled with expanding cement (minimum 0.5 percent expansion upon setting) and contain no voids. If the casing cannot be removed, it must be VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 cut or milled at all mineable coal seam levels. Any casing which remains will be perforated or ripped. Perforations or rips are required at least every 50 feet from 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam up to 100 feet above the uppermost mineable coal seam. If the operator, using a casing bond log, can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the DM that all annuli in the well are adequately sealed with cement, then the operator will not be required to perforate or tip the casing for that particular well. When multiple casing and tubing strings are present in the coal horizon(s), any casing which remains will be ripped or perforated and filled with expanding cement as indicated above. An acceptable casing bond log for each casing and tubing string is needed if used in lieu of ripping or perforating multiple strings. (4) If the DM concludes that the cleaned-out well is emitting excessive amounts of gas, a mechanical bridge plug will be place in the borehole in a competent stratum at least 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) below the lowest mineable coal seam but above the top of the uppermost hydrocarbon-producing stratum. The DM may require a greater distance for the mechanical bridge plug to be placed below the lowest mineable coal seam based on the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well (the operator will provide the DM with all information it possesses concerning the geological nature of the strata and the pressure of the well). If it is not possible to set a mechanical bridge plug, an appropriately sized packer may be used. (5) If the uppermost gas-producing stratum is within 300 feet of the base of the lowest mineable coal seam, the operator will properly put in place mechanical bridge plugs or cap seal plugs or a suitable brush plug to isolate the hydrocarbon-producing stratum from the expanding cement plug. Nevertheless, the operator will place a minimum of 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) of expanding cement below the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM requires a greater distance based the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well. d. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for plugging or replugging oil or gas wells to the surface after completely cleaning out the well: (1) The operator will pump expanding cement slurry down the well to form a plug that runs from at least 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 or greater) below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam (or lower if required by the DM based on the geological strata, or due to pressure within the well) to the surface. The operator will place the expanding cement in the well under a pressure of at least 200 pounds per square inch. Portland cement or a lightweight cement mixture may be used to fill the area from 100 feet above the top of the uppermost mineable coal seam (or higher if required by the DM due to the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well) to the surface. (2) The operator will embed steel turnings or other small magnetic particles in the top of the cement near the surface to serve as a permanent magnetic monument of the well. In the alternative, the operator will extend a 41⁄2-inch or larger casing, set in cement, at least 36 inches above the ground level with the American Petroleum Institute (API) well number either engraved or welded on the casing. When the hole cannot be marked with a physical monument (e.g., prime farmland), highresolution GPS coordinates (one-half meter resolution) are required. e. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for plugging or replugging oil and gas wells for subsequent use as degasification boreholes after completely cleaning out the well: (1) The operator will set a cement plug in the well by pumping expanding cement slurry down the tubing to provide at least 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) of expanding cement below the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM requires a greater depth based on the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well. The expanding cement will be placed in the well under a pressure of at least 200 pounds per square inch. The top of the expanding cement will extend at least 100 feet above the top of the coal seam being mined, unless the DM requires a greater distance based on the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well. (2) The operator will securely grout into the bedrock of the upper portion of the degasification well a suitable casing in order to protect it. The remainder of the well may be cased or uncased. (3) The operator will fit the top of the degasification casing with a wellhead, equipped as required by the DM in the approved ventilation plan. Such equipment may include check valves, shut-in valves, sampling ports, flame arrestor equipment, and security fencing. (4) Operation of the degasification well will be addressed in the approved ventilation plan. This may include E:\FR\FM\16OCN1.SGM 16OCN1 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Notices periodic tests of methane levels and limits on the minimum methane concentrations that may be extracted. (5) After the area of the coal mine that is degassed by a well is sealed or the coal mine is abandoned, the operator must seal the degas holes using the following procedures: (i) Insert a tube to the bottom of the drill hole or, if not possible, to at least 100 feet above the coal seam being mined. (ii) Set a cement plug in the well by pumping Portland cement or a lightweight cement mixture down the tubing until the well is filled to the surface. (iii) Embed steel turnings or other small magnetic particles in the top of the cement near the surface to serve as a permanent magnetic monument of the well. In the alternative, the operator will extend a 41⁄2-inch or larger casing, set in cement, at least 36 inches above the ground level with the API well number engraved or welded on the casing. f. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for preparing and plugging or replugging oil or gas wells that cannot be completely cleaned out due to damage to the well caused by subsidence, caving or other factors: (1) The operator will drill a hole adjacent and parallel to the well to a depth of at least 200 feet below the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM requires a greater depth based on the geological strata, or due to pressures within the well. (2) The operator will use a geophysical sensing device to locate any casing that may remain in the well. (3) When the operator determines, and the DM agrees that there is insufficient casing in the well to allow the method outlined in subparagraph (g)(3) to be used, then the operator will use a horizontal hydraulic fracturing technique to intercept the original well. From at least 200 feet below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam to a point at least 50 feet above the seam being mined, the operator will fracture in at least six places, at intervals to be agreed upon by the operator and the DM after considering the geological strata and the pressure within the well. The operator will then pump expanding cement into the fractured well in sufficient quantities and in a manner that fills all intercepted voids. (4) The operator will prepare downhole logs for each well. The logs will consist of a caliper survey and log(s) suitable for determining the top, bottom, and thickness of all coal seams and potential hydrocarbon-producing strata, and the location for the bridge plug. The operator may obtain the logs from the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 adjacent hole rather than the well if the condition of the well makes it impractical to insert the equipment necessary to obtain the log. The DM may approve the use of a down-hole camera survey in lieu of down-hole logs if the DM determines that such logs would not be suitable for obtaining the above-listed data or are impractical to obtain due to the condition of the drill hole. A journal will be maintained, describing the depth and nature of each material encountered; bit size and type used to drill each portion of the hole; the length and type of each material used to plug the well; length of casing(s) removed, perforated, ripped, or left in place; and other pertinent information concerning sealing the well. Invoices, work-orders, and other records relating to all work on the well will be maintained as part of the journal and provided to MSHA on request. (5) After the operator has plugged the well, the operator will plug the adjacent hole, from the bottom to the surface, with Portland cement or a lightweight cement mixture. The operator will embed steel turnings or other small magnetic particles in the top of the cement near the surface to serve as a permanent magnetic monument of the well. In the alternative, the operator will extend a 41⁄2-inch or larger casing, set in cement, at least 36 inches above the ground level. A combination of the methods outlined in subparagraph (f)(3) and (f)(4) may be used, in a single well, depending upon the conditions of the hole and the presence of casings. The operator and the DM should discuss the nature of each hole. The DM may require that more than one method be utilized. g. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures after approval has been granted by the DM to mine within the safety barrier or to mine through a plugged or replugged well: (1) A representative of the operator, a representative of the miners, the appropriate State agency, or the MSHA DM may request a conference be conducted prior to mining through any plugged or replugged well. The DM will schedule the conference. The party requesting the conference will notify all other parties within sufficient time for them to have a representative present. The purpose of the conference will be to review evaluate, and accommodate any abnormal or unusual circumstance(s) related to the condition of the well or surrounding strata. (2) The operator will mine through a well on a shift approved by the DM. The operator will notify the DM and the miner’s representative in sufficient time prior to mining-through a well in order PO 00000 Frm 00068 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 48117 to provide an opportunity to have a representative present. (3) When using continuous mining methods, drivage sights will be installed at the last open crosscut near the place to be mined to ensure intersection of the well. The drivage sights will not be more than 50 feet from the well. When using longwall-mining methods, drivage sights will be installed on 10-foot centers at a distance of 50 feet in advance of the well bore. Drivage sights will be installed in the headgate and tailgate. (4) The operator will ensure that firefighting equipment, including fire extinguishers, rock dust, and sufficient fire hose to reach the working face of the area of the well intersection (when either the conventional or continuous mining method is used) is available and operable during all well intersections. The fire hose will be located in the last open crosscut of the entry or room. The operator will maintain the water line to the belt conveyor tailpiece along with a sufficient amount of fire hose to reach the farthest point of penetration on the section. When the longwall mining method is used, a hose to the longwall water supply is sufficient. (5) The operator will ensure that sufficient supplies of roof support and ventilation materials are available and located at the last open crosscut. In addition, emergency plugs and suitable sealing materials will be available in the immediate area of the well intersection. (6) On the shift prior to mining through the well, the operator will service all equipment and check it for permissibility. Water sprays, water pressures, and water flow rates used for dust and spark suppression will be examined and any deficiencies will be corrected. (7) The operator will calibrate the methane monitor(s) on the longwall, continuous mining machine, or cutting machine and loading machine on the shift prior to mining through the well. (8) When mining is in progress, the operator will perform tests for methane with a hand-held methane detector at least every 10 minutes from the time that mining with the continuous mining machine is within 30 feet of the well until the well is intersected and immediately prior to mining through it. During the cutting process, no individual will be allowed on the return side until the well intersection has been completed and the area has been examined, and has been declared safe. All workplace examinations will be conducted on the return side of the shearer while the shearer is idle. (9) When using continuous or conventional mining methods, the E:\FR\FM\16OCN1.SGM 16OCN1 ethrower on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES 48118 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 198 / Monday, October 16, 2017 / Notices working place will be free of accumulations of coal dust and coal spillages, and rock dust will be applied on the roof, rib, and floor to within 20 feet of the face when mining through the well. On longwall sections, rock dusting will be conducted and placed on the roof, rib, and floor up to both the headgate and tailgate gob. (10) When the well is intersected, the operator will deenergize all equipment and thoroughly examine and determine they are safe before mining is resumed. After a well has been intersected and the working place determined safe, mining will continue inby the well at a distance sufficient to permit adequate ventilation around the area of the well. (11) If the casing is cut or milled at the coal seam level, the use of torches should not be necessary. However, in rare instances, torches may be used for inadequately or inaccurately cut or milled casings. No open flame is permitted in the area until adequate ventilation has been established around the wellbore and methane levels less than 1.0 percent are present in all areas that will be exposed to flames and sparks from the torch. The operator will apply a thick layer of rock dust to the roof, face, floor, ribs, and any exposed coal within 20 feet of the casing prior to any use of torches. (12) Non-sparking (brass) tools will be located on the working section and will be used to expose and examine cased wells. (13) No person will be permitted in the area of the mine-through operation except those actually engaged in the mining operation, including company personnel, representative of the miners, personnel from MSHA, and personnel from the appropriate State agency. (14) The operator will alert all personnel in the mine to the planned intersection of the well prior to their going underground if the planned intersection is to occur during their shift. This warning will be repeated for all shifts until the well has been mined through. (15) A certified official will directly supervise the mine-through operation and only the certified official in charge will issue instructions concerning the mine-through operation. (16) The responsible person required in 30 CFR 75.1501 will be responsible for well intersection emergencies. The responsible person will review the well intersection procedures prior to any planned intersection. Within 30 days after this petition becomes final, the petitioner will submit proposed revisions for its approved Part 48 training plan to the DM. The proposed revisions will include initial VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:59 Oct 13, 2017 Jkt 244001 and refresher training regarding compliance with the terms and conditions of this petition. The operator will provide all miners involved in the well intersection with training regarding the requirements of this petition prior to mining within 150 feet of the next well to be mined through. Within 30 days after this petition becomes final, the petitioner will submit proposed revisions for its approved mine emergency evacuation and firefighting plan required in 30 CFR 75.1501. The operator will revise the plans to include the hazards and evacuation procedures to be used for well intersections. All underground miners will be trained in this revised plan within 30 days of the DM’s approval of the revised evacuation plan. The petitioner asserts that the proposed alternative method will at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded by the existing standard. Sheila McConnell, Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances. (Email), or 202–693–9441 (Telefax). [These are not toll-free numbers]. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Introduction Under section 101 of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, a mine operator may petition and the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) may modify the application of a mandatory safety standard to that mine if the Secretary determines that: (1) An alternative method exists that will guarantee no less protection for the miners affected than that provided by the standard; or (2) the application of the standard will result in a diminution of safety to the affected miners. MSHA bases the final decision on the petitioner’s statements, any comments and information submitted by interested persons, and a field investigation of the conditions at the mine. In some instances, MSHA may approve a petition for modification on the condition that the mine operator complies with other requirements noted in the decision. [FR Doc. 2017–22270 Filed 10–13–17; 8:45 am] II. Granted Petitions for Modification BILLING CODE 4520–43–P On the basis of the findings of MSHA’s investigation, and as designee of the Secretary, MSHA has granted or partially granted the following petitions for modification: • Docket Number: M–2012–075–C. FR Notice: 77 FR 30556 (May 23, 2012). Petitioner: Mountain Coal Company, P.O. Box 591, 5174 Highway 133, Somerset, Colorado 81434. Mine: West Elk Mine, MSHA I.D. No. 05–03672, located in Gunnison County, Colorado. Regulation Affected: 30 CFR 75.500(d) (Permissible electric equipment). • Docket Number: M–2014–011–C. FR Notice: 79 FR 30174 (May 27, 2014). Petitioner: Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, LLC, Consol Energy, Inc., CNX Center, 1000 Consol Energy Drive, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania 15317–6506. Mine: Enlow Fork Mine, MSHA I.D. No. 36–07416, located in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Regulation Affected: 30 CFR 75.1700 (Oil and Gas wells). • Docket Number: M–2014–012–C. FR Notice: 79 FR 30176 (May 27, 2014). Petitioner: Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, LLC, Consol Energy, Inc., CNX Center, 1000 Consol Energy Drive, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania 15317–6506. Mine: Bailey Mine, MSHA I.D. No. 36–07230, located in Greene County, Pennsylvania. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Mine Safety and Health Administration Affirmative Decisions on Petitions for Modification Granted in Whole or in Part Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Labor. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 govern the application, processing, and disposition of petitions for modification. This Federal Register Notice notifies the public that MSHA has investigated and issued a final decision on certain mine operator petitions to modify a safety standard. SUMMARY: Copies of the final decisions are posted on MSHA’s Web site at https://www.msha.gov/regulations/ rulemaking/petitions-modification. The public may inspect the petitions and final decisions during normal business hours in MSHA’s Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, 201 12th Street South, Suite 4E401, Arlington, Virginia 22202. All visitors are required to check in at the receptionist’s desk in Suite 4E401. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Barron at 202–693–9447 (Voice), barron.barbara@dol.gov ADDRESSES: PO 00000 Frm 00069 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\16OCN1.SGM 16OCN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 198 (Monday, October 16, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 48115-48118]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-22270]


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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Mine Safety and Health Administration


Petitions for Modification of Application of Existing Mandatory 
Safety Standards

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice is a summary of petitions for modification 
submitted to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) by the 
parties listed below.

DATES: All comments on the petitions must be received by MSHA's Office 
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances on or before November 15, 
2017.

ADDRESSES: You may submit your comments, identified by ``docket 
number'' on the subject line, by any of the following methods:
    1. Electronic Mail: zzMSHA-comments@dol.gov. Include the docket 
number of the petition in the subject line of the message.
    2. Facsimile: 202-693-9441.
    3. Regular Mail or Hand Delivery: MSHA, Office of Standards, 
Regulations, and Variances, 201 12th Street South, Suite 4E401, 
Arlington, Virginia 22202-5452, Attention: Sheila McConnell, Director, 
Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances. Persons delivering 
documents are required to check in at the receptionist's desk in Suite 
4E401. Individuals may inspect copies of the petition and comments 
during normal business hours at the address listed above.
    MSHA will consider only comments postmarked by the U.S. Postal 
Service or proof of delivery from another delivery service such as UPS 
or Federal Express on or before the deadline for comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Barron, Office of Standards, 
Regulations, and Variances at 202-693-9447 (Voice), 
barron.barbara@dol.gov (Email), or 202-693-9441 (Facsimile). [These are 
not toll-free numbers.]

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety 
and Health Act of 1977 and Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations 
Part 44 govern the application, processing, and disposition of 
petitions for modification.

I. Background

    Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 
(Mine Act) allows the mine operator or representative of miners to file 
a petition to modify the application of any mandatory safety standard 
to a coal or other mine if the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) 
determines that:
    1. An alternative method of achieving the result of such standard 
exists which will at all times guarantee no less than the same measure 
of protection afforded the miners of such mine by such standard; or
    2. That the application of such standard to such mine will result 
in a diminution of safety to the miners in such mine.
    In addition, the regulations at 30 CFR 44.10 and 44.11 establish 
the requirements and procedures for filing petitions for modification.

II. Petitions for Modification

    Docket Number: M-2017-017-C.
    Petitioner: Paramont Contura, LLC, Three Gateway Center, 401 
Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222-1000.
    Mine: Deep Mine 44, MSHA I.D. No. 44-07308, located in Dickenson 
County, Virginia.
    Regulation Affected: 30 CFR 75.1700 (Oil and gas wells).
    Modification Request: The petitioner requests a modification of the 
existing standard to permit an alternative method of compliance with 
respect to gas wells. The petitioner proposes to plug and mine through 
vertically drilled gas wells. The petitioner states that:
    The following alternative methods will be used when mining through 
vertically drilled degasification boreholes with horizontal laterals to 
permit mining through the boreholes.
    a. The petition will apply to all wells being mined through located 
within the mineable reserve at Paramount Coal Company's Deep Mine 44.
    b. District Manager approval is required for the following proposed 
alternative methods:
    (1) A safety barrier of 300 feet in diameter (150 between any mined 
area and a well) will be maintained around all wells (defined herein to 
include all active, inactive, abandoned, shut-in, and previously 
plugged oil and gas wells, and including water injection wells) until 
approval to proceed with mining has been obtained from the District 
Manager (DM). Wells that were drilled into potential oil or gas 
producing formations that did not produce commercial quantities of 
either gas or oil (wildcat wells or dry holes) are also defined as oil 
or gas wells.
    (2) Prior to mining within the safety barrier around any well that 
is intended to be mined through, the mine operator will provide the DM 
a sworn affidavit or declaration executed by a company official stating 
that all mandatory procedures for cleaning out, preparing, and plugging 
each gas or oil well have been completed as described by the terms and 
conditions of this petition. The affidavit or declaration must be 
accompanied by all logs described below and any other records described 
in those subparagraphs which the DM may request. The DM will review the 
affidavit or declaration, the logs, and other records that have been 
requested, and may inspect the well. The DM will determine if the 
operator has complied with the procedures for cleaning, preparing, and 
plugging each well as described by the terms and conditions of this 
petition. If the DM determines

[[Page 48116]]

that the procedures have been complied with, the DM will provide 
approval and the mine operator may mine within the safety barrier of 
the well, subject to the terms of this petition. The petitioner states 
that the terms and conditions of this petition apply to all types of 
coal mining.
    c. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures when 
cleaning out and preparing vertical oil and gas wells prior to plugging 
or replugging:
    (1) If the total depth of the well is less than 4,000 feet, the 
operator will completely clean out the well from the surface to at 
least 200 feet below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam, unless 
the DM requires cleaning to a greater depth based on the DM's judgment 
as to what is required due to the geological strata, or due to the 
pressure of the well (the operator will provide the DM with all 
information it possesses concerning the geological nature of the strata 
and the pressure of the well). If the total depth of the well is 4,000 
feet, or greater, the operator will completely clean out the well from 
the surface to at least 400 feet below the base of the lowest mineable 
coal seam. The operator will remove all material from the entire 
diameter of the well, wall to wall.
    (2) The operator will prepare down-hole logs for each well that 
will consist of a caliper survey and log(s) suitable for determining 
the top, bottom, and thickness of all coal seams and potential 
hydrocarbon producing strata and the location for a bridge plug. The DM 
may approve the use of a down-hole camera survey in lieu of down-hole 
logs. In addition, a journal will be maintained describing the depth 
and nature of each material encountered; bit size and type used to 
drill each portion of the hole; length and type of each material used 
to plug the well; length of casings(s) removed, perforated or ripped or 
left in place, any sections where casing was cut or milled; and other 
pertinent information concerning cleaning and sealing the well. 
Invoices, work-orders, and other records relating to all work on the 
well will be maintained as part of this journal and provided to MSHA on 
request.
    (3) When cleaning out the well, the operator will make a diligent 
effort to remove all of the casing in the well. If it is not possible 
to remove all of the casing, then the operator must take appropriate 
steps to ensure that the annulus between the casing and between the 
casings and the well walls are filled with expanding cement (minimum 
0.5 percent expansion upon setting) and contain no voids. If the casing 
cannot be removed, it must be cut or milled at all mineable coal seam 
levels. Any casing which remains will be perforated or ripped. 
Perforations or rips are required at least every 50 feet from 200 feet 
(400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) below the 
base of the lowest mineable coal seam up to 100 feet above the 
uppermost mineable coal seam. If the operator, using a casing bond log, 
can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the DM that all annuli in the 
well are adequately sealed with cement, then the operator will not be 
required to perforate or tip the casing for that particular well. When 
multiple casing and tubing strings are present in the coal horizon(s), 
any casing which remains will be ripped or perforated and filled with 
expanding cement as indicated above. An acceptable casing bond log for 
each casing and tubing string is needed if used in lieu of ripping or 
perforating multiple strings.
    (4) If the DM concludes that the cleaned-out well is emitting 
excessive amounts of gas, a mechanical bridge plug will be place in the 
borehole in a competent stratum at least 200 feet (400 feet if the 
total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) below the lowest mineable 
coal seam but above the top of the uppermost hydrocarbon-producing 
stratum. The DM may require a greater distance for the mechanical 
bridge plug to be placed below the lowest mineable coal seam based on 
the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well (the 
operator will provide the DM with all information it possesses 
concerning the geological nature of the strata and the pressure of the 
well). If it is not possible to set a mechanical bridge plug, an 
appropriately sized packer may be used.
    (5) If the uppermost gas-producing stratum is within 300 feet of 
the base of the lowest mineable coal seam, the operator will properly 
put in place mechanical bridge plugs or cap seal plugs or a suitable 
brush plug to isolate the hydrocarbon-producing stratum from the 
expanding cement plug. Nevertheless, the operator will place a minimum 
of 200 feet (400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) 
of expanding cement below the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM 
requires a greater distance based the geological strata, or due to the 
pressure within the well.
    d. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for 
plugging or replugging oil or gas wells to the surface after completely 
cleaning out the well:
    (1) The operator will pump expanding cement slurry down the well to 
form a plug that runs from at least 200 feet (400 feet if the total 
well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) below the base of the lowest 
mineable coal seam (or lower if required by the DM based on the 
geological strata, or due to pressure within the well) to the surface. 
The operator will place the expanding cement in the well under a 
pressure of at least 200 pounds per square inch. Portland cement or a 
lightweight cement mixture may be used to fill the area from 100 feet 
above the top of the uppermost mineable coal seam (or higher if 
required by the DM due to the geological strata, or due to the pressure 
within the well) to the surface.
    (2) The operator will embed steel turnings or other small magnetic 
particles in the top of the cement near the surface to serve as a 
permanent magnetic monument of the well. In the alternative, the 
operator will extend a 4\1/2\-inch or larger casing, set in cement, at 
least 36 inches above the ground level with the American Petroleum 
Institute (API) well number either engraved or welded on the casing. 
When the hole cannot be marked with a physical monument (e.g., prime 
farmland), high-resolution GPS coordinates (one-half meter resolution) 
are required.
    e. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for 
plugging or replugging oil and gas wells for subsequent use as 
degasification boreholes after completely cleaning out the well:
    (1) The operator will set a cement plug in the well by pumping 
expanding cement slurry down the tubing to provide at least 200 feet 
(400 feet if the total well depth is 4,000 feet or greater) of 
expanding cement below the lowest mineable coal seam, unless the DM 
requires a greater depth based on the geological strata, or due to the 
pressure within the well. The expanding cement will be placed in the 
well under a pressure of at least 200 pounds per square inch. The top 
of the expanding cement will extend at least 100 feet above the top of 
the coal seam being mined, unless the DM requires a greater distance 
based on the geological strata, or due to the pressure within the well.
    (2) The operator will securely grout into the bedrock of the upper 
portion of the degasification well a suitable casing in order to 
protect it. The remainder of the well may be cased or uncased.
    (3) The operator will fit the top of the degasification casing with 
a wellhead, equipped as required by the DM in the approved ventilation 
plan. Such equipment may include check valves, shut-in valves, sampling 
ports, flame arrestor equipment, and security fencing.
    (4) Operation of the degasification well will be addressed in the 
approved ventilation plan. This may include

[[Page 48117]]

periodic tests of methane levels and limits on the minimum methane 
concentrations that may be extracted.
    (5) After the area of the coal mine that is degassed by a well is 
sealed or the coal mine is abandoned, the operator must seal the degas 
holes using the following procedures:
    (i) Insert a tube to the bottom of the drill hole or, if not 
possible, to at least 100 feet above the coal seam being mined.
    (ii) Set a cement plug in the well by pumping Portland cement or a 
lightweight cement mixture down the tubing until the well is filled to 
the surface.
    (iii) Embed steel turnings or other small magnetic particles in the 
top of the cement near the surface to serve as a permanent magnetic 
monument of the well. In the alternative, the operator will extend a 
4\1/2\-inch or larger casing, set in cement, at least 36 inches above 
the ground level with the API well number engraved or welded on the 
casing.
    f. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures for 
preparing and plugging or replugging oil or gas wells that cannot be 
completely cleaned out due to damage to the well caused by subsidence, 
caving or other factors:
    (1) The operator will drill a hole adjacent and parallel to the 
well to a depth of at least 200 feet below the lowest mineable coal 
seam, unless the DM requires a greater depth based on the geological 
strata, or due to pressures within the well.
    (2) The operator will use a geophysical sensing device to locate 
any casing that may remain in the well.
    (3) When the operator determines, and the DM agrees that there is 
insufficient casing in the well to allow the method outlined in 
subparagraph (g)(3) to be used, then the operator will use a horizontal 
hydraulic fracturing technique to intercept the original well. From at 
least 200 feet below the base of the lowest mineable coal seam to a 
point at least 50 feet above the seam being mined, the operator will 
fracture in at least six places, at intervals to be agreed upon by the 
operator and the DM after considering the geological strata and the 
pressure within the well. The operator will then pump expanding cement 
into the fractured well in sufficient quantities and in a manner that 
fills all intercepted voids.
    (4) The operator will prepare down-hole logs for each well. The 
logs will consist of a caliper survey and log(s) suitable for 
determining the top, bottom, and thickness of all coal seams and 
potential hydrocarbon-producing strata, and the location for the bridge 
plug. The operator may obtain the logs from the adjacent hole rather 
than the well if the condition of the well makes it impractical to 
insert the equipment necessary to obtain the log. The DM may approve 
the use of a down-hole camera survey in lieu of down-hole logs if the 
DM determines that such logs would not be suitable for obtaining the 
above-listed data or are impractical to obtain due to the condition of 
the drill hole. A journal will be maintained, describing the depth and 
nature of each material encountered; bit size and type used to drill 
each portion of the hole; the length and type of each material used to 
plug the well; length of casing(s) removed, perforated, ripped, or left 
in place; and other pertinent information concerning sealing the well. 
Invoices, work-orders, and other records relating to all work on the 
well will be maintained as part of the journal and provided to MSHA on 
request.
    (5) After the operator has plugged the well, the operator will plug 
the adjacent hole, from the bottom to the surface, with Portland cement 
or a lightweight cement mixture. The operator will embed steel turnings 
or other small magnetic particles in the top of the cement near the 
surface to serve as a permanent magnetic monument of the well. In the 
alternative, the operator will extend a 4\1/2\-inch or larger casing, 
set in cement, at least 36 inches above the ground level. A combination 
of the methods outlined in subparagraph (f)(3) and (f)(4) may be used, 
in a single well, depending upon the conditions of the hole and the 
presence of casings. The operator and the DM should discuss the nature 
of each hole. The DM may require that more than one method be utilized.
    g. The petitioner proposes to use the following procedures after 
approval has been granted by the DM to mine within the safety barrier 
or to mine through a plugged or replugged well:
    (1) A representative of the operator, a representative of the 
miners, the appropriate State agency, or the MSHA DM may request a 
conference be conducted prior to mining through any plugged or 
replugged well. The DM will schedule the conference. The party 
requesting the conference will notify all other parties within 
sufficient time for them to have a representative present. The purpose 
of the conference will be to review evaluate, and accommodate any 
abnormal or unusual circumstance(s) related to the condition of the 
well or surrounding strata.
    (2) The operator will mine through a well on a shift approved by 
the DM. The operator will notify the DM and the miner's representative 
in sufficient time prior to mining-through a well in order to provide 
an opportunity to have a representative present.
    (3) When using continuous mining methods, drivage sights will be 
installed at the last open crosscut near the place to be mined to 
ensure intersection of the well. The drivage sights will not be more 
than 50 feet from the well. When using longwall-mining methods, drivage 
sights will be installed on 10-foot centers at a distance of 50 feet in 
advance of the well bore. Drivage sights will be installed in the 
headgate and tailgate.
    (4) The operator will ensure that firefighting equipment, including 
fire extinguishers, rock dust, and sufficient fire hose to reach the 
working face of the area of the well intersection (when either the 
conventional or continuous mining method is used) is available and 
operable during all well intersections. The fire hose will be located 
in the last open crosscut of the entry or room. The operator will 
maintain the water line to the belt conveyor tailpiece along with a 
sufficient amount of fire hose to reach the farthest point of 
penetration on the section. When the longwall mining method is used, a 
hose to the longwall water supply is sufficient.
    (5) The operator will ensure that sufficient supplies of roof 
support and ventilation materials are available and located at the last 
open crosscut. In addition, emergency plugs and suitable sealing 
materials will be available in the immediate area of the well 
intersection.
    (6) On the shift prior to mining through the well, the operator 
will service all equipment and check it for permissibility. Water 
sprays, water pressures, and water flow rates used for dust and spark 
suppression will be examined and any deficiencies will be corrected.
    (7) The operator will calibrate the methane monitor(s) on the 
longwall, continuous mining machine, or cutting machine and loading 
machine on the shift prior to mining through the well.
    (8) When mining is in progress, the operator will perform tests for 
methane with a hand-held methane detector at least every 10 minutes 
from the time that mining with the continuous mining machine is within 
30 feet of the well until the well is intersected and immediately prior 
to mining through it. During the cutting process, no individual will be 
allowed on the return side until the well intersection has been 
completed and the area has been examined, and has been declared safe. 
All workplace examinations will be conducted on the return side of the 
shearer while the shearer is idle.
    (9) When using continuous or conventional mining methods, the

[[Page 48118]]

working place will be free of accumulations of coal dust and coal 
spillages, and rock dust will be applied on the roof, rib, and floor to 
within 20 feet of the face when mining through the well. On longwall 
sections, rock dusting will be conducted and placed on the roof, rib, 
and floor up to both the headgate and tailgate gob.
    (10) When the well is intersected, the operator will deenergize all 
equipment and thoroughly examine and determine they are safe before 
mining is resumed. After a well has been intersected and the working 
place determined safe, mining will continue inby the well at a distance 
sufficient to permit adequate ventilation around the area of the well.
    (11) If the casing is cut or milled at the coal seam level, the use 
of torches should not be necessary. However, in rare instances, torches 
may be used for inadequately or inaccurately cut or milled casings. No 
open flame is permitted in the area until adequate ventilation has been 
established around the wellbore and methane levels less than 1.0 
percent are present in all areas that will be exposed to flames and 
sparks from the torch. The operator will apply a thick layer of rock 
dust to the roof, face, floor, ribs, and any exposed coal within 20 
feet of the casing prior to any use of torches.
    (12) Non-sparking (brass) tools will be located on the working 
section and will be used to expose and examine cased wells.
    (13) No person will be permitted in the area of the mine-through 
operation except those actually engaged in the mining operation, 
including company personnel, representative of the miners, personnel 
from MSHA, and personnel from the appropriate State agency.
    (14) The operator will alert all personnel in the mine to the 
planned intersection of the well prior to their going underground if 
the planned intersection is to occur during their shift. This warning 
will be repeated for all shifts until the well has been mined through.
    (15) A certified official will directly supervise the mine-through 
operation and only the certified official in charge will issue 
instructions concerning the mine-through operation.
    (16) The responsible person required in 30 CFR 75.1501 will be 
responsible for well intersection emergencies. The responsible person 
will review the well intersection procedures prior to any planned 
intersection.
    Within 30 days after this petition becomes final, the petitioner 
will submit proposed revisions for its approved Part 48 training plan 
to the DM. The proposed revisions will include initial and refresher 
training regarding compliance with the terms and conditions of this 
petition. The operator will provide all miners involved in the well 
intersection with training regarding the requirements of this petition 
prior to mining within 150 feet of the next well to be mined through.
    Within 30 days after this petition becomes final, the petitioner 
will submit proposed revisions for its approved mine emergency 
evacuation and firefighting plan required in 30 CFR 75.1501. The 
operator will revise the plans to include the hazards and evacuation 
procedures to be used for well intersections. All underground miners 
will be trained in this revised plan within 30 days of the DM's 
approval of the revised evacuation plan.
    The petitioner asserts that the proposed alternative method will at 
all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection 
afforded by the existing standard.

Sheila McConnell,
Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances.
[FR Doc. 2017-22270 Filed 10-13-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4520-43-P