WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised the Environmental Protection Agency's new rule establishing guidelines for the environmentally protective use of chat in federally funded transportation projects.

The rule establishes criteria for chat that is from the Tri-State Mining District of Ottawa County, Oklahoma; Cherokee County, Kansas; and Jasper, Newton, Lawrence and Barry counties in Missouri.

“I am pleased EPA has issued final regulations on the proviion I included in the federal highway bill. Inhofe said. “Many years of mining at Tar Creek produced several million tons of mine waste. This mine waste or “chat, however, has many commercial uses. These regulations address environmentally acceptable uses for chat to further encourage its use commercially, and importantly, remove it from Tar Creek. This is one more step toward addressing the environmental and human health issues that have plagued the Tar Creek area for many years.

As Chairman of the Senate EPW Committee in 2005, Inhofe included section 6018 in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 directing the Administrator of the EPA with the Secretary of Transportation to establish criteria for the safe and environmentally protective use of chat mine tailings from the Tar Creek for cement or concrete projects and transportation construction projects that are carried out, in whole or in part, using federal funds.

According to the EPS, the announcement by EPA brings about the following:

It finalizes the Chat Rule addressing beneficial uses for chat to reduce the current health and environmental hazards posed by existing surface-level chat piles.

A recommendation by EPA that the criteria be used as a guidance for the beneficial use of chat in non-transportation, non-residential concrete and cement projects.

EPA Regions 6 and 7 are updating their current fact sheets on the use of chat to ensure their consistency with the chat rule.

As a result of years of mining in the Tri-State Mining District which covers parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, several million tons of mining waste called chat has been stored in piles several hundred feet high throughout the site. The chat piles are composed of various sizes of chat from fine particles to small pebbles and large rocks.

When left exposed to the environment, chat particles can spread through wind, water, or air, contaminating the surrounding environment causing the site to be listed on EPA's National Priority List as a superfund site.