- Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) is the primary federal law that regulates the environmental effects of
coal miningin the United States.
SMCRA created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. SMCRA also created the
Office of Surface Mining, an agency within the Department of the Interior, to promulgate regulations, to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and to ensure consistency among state regulatory programs.
SMCRA grew out of a concern about the environmental effects of strip mining. Coal had been mined in the United States since the 1740s, but surface mining did not become widespread until the 1930s. At the end of that decade, states began to enact the first laws regulating the coal mining industry:
West Virginiain 1939, Indianain 1941, Illinoisin 1943, and Pennsylvaniain 1945. Despite those laws, the great demand for coal during World War IIled to coal being mined with little regard for environmental consequences. After the war, states continued to enact and expand regulatory programs, some of which required mining permits or the posting of bonds to ensure that the land could be reclaimed after mining was complete. But these state laws were largely unsuccessful at stemming the environmental impacts of surface mining. One problem was that the law varied from state to state, enabling mining operations to relocate to states where regulations were less strict. Meanwhile, surface mining became increasingly common: in 1963 just 33 percent of American coal came from surface mines; by 1973 that figure reached 60 percent.
In 1974 and 1975 Congress sent mining regulation bills to President
Gerald Ford, but he vetoed them out of concern that they would harm the coal industry, increase inflation, and restrict the energy supply. As Jimmy Cartercampaigned in Appalachia in 1976, he promised to sign those bills. Congress sent him a bill that was even more stringent than those vetoed by Ford, and President Carter signed it into law on August 3, 1977.
As stated above, SMCRA has two main parts: regulation of active mines and reclamation of abandoned mine systems.
The regulation of active mines under SMCRA has five major components:
*Standards of Performance. SMCRA and its implementing regulations set environmental standards that mines must follow while operating, and achieve when reclaiming mined land.
*Permitting. SMCRA requires that companies obtain permits before conducting surface mining. Permit applications must describe what the premining environmental conditions and land use are, what the proposed mining and reclamation will be, how the mine will meet the SMCRA performance standards, and how the land will be used after reclamation is complete. This information is intended to help the government determine whether to allow the mine and set requirements in the permit that will protect the environment.
*Bonding. SMCRA requires that mining companies post a bond sufficient to cover the cost of reclaiming the site. This is meant to ensure that the mining site will be reclaimed even if the company goes out of business or fails to clean up the land for some other reason. The bond is not released until the mining site has been fully reclaimed and the government has (after five years in the East and ten years in the West) found the that the reclamation was successful.
*Inspection and Enforcement. SMCRA gives government regulators the authority to inspect mining operations, and to punish companies that violate SMCRA or an equivalent state statute. Inspectors can issue "notices of violation," which require operators to correct problems within a certain amount of time; levy fines; or order that mining cease.
*Land Restrictions. SMCRA prohibits surface mining altogether on certain lands, such as in National Parks and wilderness areas. It also allows citizens to challenge proposed surface mining operations on the ground that they will cause too much environmental harm.
SMCRA created an Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to pay for the cleanup of mine lands abandoned before the passage of the statute in 1977. The law was amended in 1990 to allow funds to be spent on reclamation of mines abandoned after 1977. The fund is financed by a tax of 35 cents per ton for surface mined coal, 15 cents per ton for coal mined underground, and 10 cents per ton for
lignite. Half the AML fees collected in each state with an approved reclamation program (see below) are given to that state to fund its reclamation program. The other half are used by OSM to respond to emergencies such as landslides, land subsidence, and fires, and to carry out high priority cleanups in states without approved programs. States with approved programs can also use AML funds to set up programs to insure homeowners against land subsidence caused by underground mining.
Like most environmental statutes passed in the 1960s and 1970s, SMCRA uses a
cooperative federalismapproach under which states are expected to take the lead in regulation while the federal government oversees their efforts. Under SMCRA, the federal government can approve a program, which gives the state the authority to regulate mining operations, if the state demonstrates that it has a law that is at least as strict as SMCRA, and that they have a regulatory agency with the wherewithal to operate the program. Currently, most coal-mining states have approved programs. Those states issue their own permits, inspect their mines, and take enforcement action themselves when necessary. In the two states without approved programs ( Tennesseeand Washington) and on Indian Reservations, the Office of Surface Mining performs those functions. The federal government is required to regulate surface coal mining on federal lands (which include 60 percent of the coal reserves in the West), but can enter into cooperative agreements with states with approved programs.
*"25th Anniversary of the Surface Mining Law: A report on the protection and restoration of the nation's land and water resources under the Surface Mining Law", Office of Surface Mining, 2003. Available at [http://www.osmre.gov/pdf/anniversaryreport.pdf OSM website] .
*Green, Edward. "State and Federal Roles Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977", 21 S. Ill. U. L.J. 531 (1997)
* [http://www.osmre.gov/smcra.htm Text of SMCRA] , 30 U.S.C. §§ 1234-1328.
* [http://www.osmre.gov/regindex.htm SMCRA regulations] , 30 CFR Part 700 et seq.
* [http://www.osmre.gov/ Office of Surface Mining homepage]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Surface mining — is a type of mining in which soil and rock overlying the mineral deposit are removed. It is the opposite of underground mining, in which the overlying rock is left in place, and the mineral removed through shafts or tunnels. Surface mining is… … Wikipedia
Office of Surface Mining — Reclamation and Enforcement Seal Agency overview Headquarters 1951 Constitution Avenue … Wikipedia
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 — Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 or Ocean Dumping Act is one of several key environmental laws passed by the US Congress in 1972. It authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate ocean dumping of… … Wikipedia
Mining engineering — Surface coal mine with haul truck in foreground Mining engineering is an engineering discipline that involves the practice, the theory, the science, the technology, and application of extracting and processing minerals from a naturally occurring… … Wikipedia
mining — /muy ning/, n. 1. the act, process, or industry of extracting ores, coal, etc., from mines. 2. the laying of explosive mines. [1250 1300; ME: undermining (walls in an attack); see MINE2, ING1] * * * I Excavation of materials from the Earth s… … Universalium
Mountaintop removal mining — Mountaintop removal site Mountaintop removal in Martin County, Kentucky M … Wikipedia
Coal mining — Men leaving a UK colliery at the close of a shift Surface coal mining in Wyo … Wikipedia
Mine reclamation — is the process of creating useful landscapes that meet a variety of goals, typically creating productive ecosystems (or sometimes industrial or municipal land) from mined land. It includes all aspects of this work, including material placement,… … Wikipedia
Clean Water Act — For Clean Water Act of Ontario, Canada, see Clean Water Act (Ontario). Clean Water Act Full title Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972 Acronym CWA / Clean Water Act Enacted by the 92nd United … Wikipedia
Clean Air Act (United States) — Clean Air Act Full title Clean Air Act of 1963 Acronym CAA Effective Dec. 17, 1963 Citations Public Law P.L. 88 206 … Wikipedia