Summary: H.R.2 — 95th Congress (1977-1978)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Conference report filed in House (07/12/1977)

(Conference report filed in House in House, H. Rept. 95-493)

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act - =Title I: Statement of Findings and Policy= - Declares that most of the nation's coal reserve can only be mined by underground methods. Lists the purposes of this Act, including the establishment of a nationwide program to prevent adverse effects to society and the environment from surface coal mining.

=Title II: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement= - Establishes in the Interior Department the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement with a Director appointed by the President. States that such Office shall administer the programs required by this Act and assist the States in development of State programs for surface coal mining and reclamation. States that the Office shall be considered an independent Federal regulatory body. Authorizes petitioning the Director to initiate a proceeding for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule under this Act.

=Title III: State Mining and Mineral Resources and Research Institutes= - Authorizes appropriations to the Secretary of the Interior of sums adequate to provide for each participating State $200,000 for fiscal year 1978, $300,000 for fiscal year 1979, and $400,000 for each fiscal year thereafter for five years, to assist the States in carrying on the work of a competent and qualified mining and mineral resources research institute of center at the school of mines of one public college or university of the State. Requires such monies to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the States.

Authorizes appropriations of $15,000,000 for fiscal year 1978, such sum to be increased by $2,000,000 each fiscal year for six years thereafter, for specific projects in mining and mineral research in institutes.

Directs the Secretary to establish a center for cataloging current and projected scientific research in mining and mineral resources.

Requires the Secretary to appoint an Advisory Committee on Mining and Mineral Research for advice on all matters concerning mining and mineral resources research.

=Title IV: Abandoned Mine Reclamation= - Creates the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund in the Treasury. Requires operators of coal mines to pay into the fund quarterly fees of $.35 per ton of coal produced by surface mining and $.15 per ton of coal produced by underground mining, or ten percent of the value of the coal in the mine, whichever is less. Sets forth requirements for the reporting of quarterly coal production, penalties for misreporting, and requirements for the collection of reclamation fees.

States that land eligible for reclamation are those which were previously mined for coal or affected by such mining and abandoned or left in an inadequate reclamation status.

Directs the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate, and publish in the Federal Register, regulations covering implementation of an abandoned mine reclamation program, and establishing requirements for approval of its program, a State will have exclusive responsibility for mine reclamation under this Act.

Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into agreements with landowners of water rights under which such landowners shall furnish a conservation and development plan and shall effect such plan in return for financial assistance from the Secretary of Agriculture of up to 80 percent of the cost of such a reclamation effort.

Grants authority to the Secretary, or a state, under its approved State program, to enter upon land or water resources adversely affected by past coal mining practices, and to do whatever is necessary and expedient to restore, reclaim, abate, control or prevent the adverse affects. Authorizes the Secretary to acquire eligible lands and then, after reclamation, transfer them to date or private ownership, if he determines that acquisition and reclamation is an element of an economically feasible plan for a project to construct or rehabilitate housing for certain classes of people. Empowers the Secretary and the States, pursuant to an approved State program, to act to recover the costs of reclaiming privately owned lands.

Authorizes the Secretary, at the request of the Governor of any State to fill voids and seal abandoned tunnels.

Grants powers to the Secretary to act where an emergency constituting danger to the public health, safety, or general welfare exists, and where no other remedy is available. Grants certain other powers to the Secretary.

Directs the Secretary, or the State, to report to the Congress annually, on the operations under the funds and recommendations as to future uses of the land.

=Title V: Control of the Environmental Impacts of Surface Coal Mining= - Requires the Secretary to publish, within 90 days of enactment of this Act, regulations covering an interim regulatory procedure for surface coal mining and reclamation operations. Directs the Secretary to publish, within one year of the enactment of this Act, regulations which establish a permanent regulatory procedure and performance standards for surface coal mining and reclamation standards. Requires the Secretary to obtain the concurrence of the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency with respect to regulations concerned with air or water quality standards.

Establishes an interim permit program for new mines to require surface mining operators, within six months after enactment of this Act, to comply with the following environmental protection standards: (1) the use of mine waste impoundments to dispose of underground mine, surface mine and coal processing plant waste; (2) post-mining land use objectives; (3) regrading to original contour; (4) Steep-slope requirements, including limitation of soil placement on downslopes; (5) segregation and preservation of topsoil; (6) protection of the hydrologic balance; and (7) revegetation requirements.

Applies the above standards, nine months after enactment of this Act, to mines in operation pursuant to a permit issued prior to six months after the date of enactment of this Act. Exempts from those standards, until January 1, 1979, mines operating under a State permit issued before enactment of this Act and producing no more than 100,000 tons of coal annually. Requires these mines ton comply with a prohibition against placing soil on the downslope.

Requires mining operators to file for permanent permits under an anticipated approved State program within two months following the approval of a State program or the implementation of a Federal program. Requires that such permits be granted or denied within eight months of the approval of a State program.

Mandates the establishment of an interim Federal enforcement program to carry out inspections and enforce the provisions of the Act until a permanent State or Federal program is established.

Sets forth the procedure and requirements for a State to assume exclusive jurisdiction in administering surface mining regulation on non-Federal lands. Provides for Federal regulation of surface mining and reclamation operations in any State which is unwilling or unable to administer such regulation.

Permits State laws and regulations that are more stringent than those set forth pursuant to this Act.

Provides a timetable for obtaining permits to conduct surface mining and reclamation operations pursuant to the Act from either the State regulatory authority under a State program or the Secretary under a Federal program. Requires permit applications to describe the method of mining and equipment proposed to be used, to describe by maps the land to be affected, and to contain a statement of results of test borings or core samplings of the affected land. Stipulates that permits must be accompanied by a mining and reclamation plan which shall include a description of present uses of the land, steps to be taken to prevent environmental damage, and description of the reclamation activities. Requires the posting of performance bonds and possession of liability insurance by applicants for permits. Sets forth the procedures for permit approval, denial and revision.

Requires the establishment of coal exploration regulations by appropriate State or Federal authorities. Requires that such regulations include provisions for reclamation of lands disturbed in exploration activities. Requires that any person exploring for coal on Federal lands for commercial purposes obtain an exploration permit from the regulatory authority.

Assigns the responsibility for giving public notice, holding hearings and submitting comments to the mining permit applicant, the State regulatory authority and interested third parties, respectively. Sets forth the required procedure for the regulatory authority's decision, and any subsequent judicial review.

Imposes general environmental performance standards on surface mining operations as a condition of the issuance of a permit under this Act. Includes in such standards, requirements relating to the use of explosives and the need for reclamation efforts.

Directs the Secretary to promulgate rules and regulations directed at the surface effects of underground mining, and to consider the "distinct difference" between surface and underground mining in such promulgation.

Directs and authorizes inspection of surface coal mining and reclamation to determine compliance with this Act and regulations. Provides requirements for recordkeeping, reporting, and monitoring by mine operators. Requires surprise inspections by regulatory agencies not less than once a month.

Imposes civil penalties for violation of this Act or regulations under it. Establishes procedures for citizen suits.

Establishes conditions under which mine operators may request a release of all or part of the performance bond. Requires public notice and hearings upon applications for such releases.

Provides for a system of Federal enforcement to reinforce and strengthen State regulation as necessary.

Requires States to establish, as a condition of assuming primary regulatory control, a planning process designed to identify lands unsuitable for surface coal mining. Requires designation of lands as unsuitable if it can be shown that reclamation pursuant to the requirements of the Act is not feasible. Authorizes designation of lands as unsuitable where mining operations will: (1) be incompatible with land use plans or programs; (2) affect fragile or historic lands of significant historic, scientific or esthetic value; (3) affect renewable land resources with an impact on long-range food and water supply; and (4) increase a significant hazard to life and property, including the possibility of flood and earthquake damage.

Prohibits surface coal mining operations on certain Federal lands, or within 100 feet of a public road or within 300 feet of a building or dwelling unless the consent of the affected public or private interest is obtained.

Requires implementation of a Federal lands program applicable to all surface coal mining and reclamation activities pursuant to Federal laws, or which take place on Federal lands.

Applies the requirements of this Act to public corporations, public agencies and publicly owned utilities which engage in surface mining.

Provides administrative review of any order or notice issued by the Secretary or his authorized representative in the Federal enforcement process. Provides judicial review by the appropriate United States district court for any decision of the Secretary approving or disapproving a State program.

Requires separate regulations for programs for special bituminous coal surface mines that meet specified criteria.

Exempts the following three types of surface mining from the provisions of the Act: (1) the extraction of coal by a landowner for his own non-commercial use; (2) the extraction of coal where surface mining affects two acres or less; and (3) the extraction of coal in the process of construction.

Requires separate regulations for anthracite coal surface mines which are regulated by environmental protection standards of the States.

=Title VI: Designation of Lands Unsuitable for Noncoal Mining= - Allows the Secretary to designate Federal lands unsuitable for mining materials other than coal, if they are predominantly urban or suburban in character or if such mining operations would have an adverse impact on lands used primarily for residential and related purposes.

=Title VII: Administrative and Miscellaneous Provisions= - Defines the terms used in this Act. Excludes lands east of the 100th meridian owned by the U.S. Government from the definition of "Federal lands.

Prohibits discrimination against employees for filing suit under this Act and for testifying in a proceeding under this Act.

Authorizes the Secretary to make annual grants to the States to assist the States in developing, administering, and enforcing State programs under this Act. Authorizes the Secretary to provide technical assistance and training, and assistance in preparing and maintaining a continuing inventory of information on surface coal mining and reclamation projects.

Requires the Secretary to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress.

Directs the Secretary to contract with the National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering for a study of surface coal mining conditions in Alaska in order to determine which, if any, of the provisions of this Act should be modified with respect to such operations in Alaska.

Directs the Secretary to consult with Indian tribes in studying the regulation of surface mining on Indian lands. Requires all surface coal mining operations on Indian lands to comply with requirements at least as stringent as specified provisions in this Act within 30 months from the enactment of this Act.

Stipulates that, in order to encourage advances in mining and reclamation practices, the regulatory authority with approval of the Secretary may authorize departures in individual cases on an experimental basis from the environmental protection performance standards promulgated under this Act.

Authorizes the appropriation of the following sums to carry out this Act: (1) for various contract authority, $10,000,000 per fiscal year for fiscal year 1978, 1979, and 1980; (2) for the performance of test borings by the regulatory authority, an amount reserved for such purpose from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund not to exceed $10,000,000 per fiscal year; and (3) for administrative and other purposes, $20,000,000 for fiscal year 1978; $30,000,000 for fiscal years 1979 and 1980; and such funds that are required thereafter.

Directs the President to insure the coordination of regulatory and inspection activities among the departments, agencies, and instrumentalities to which such activities are assigned by this Act and certain other laws.

Provides for the protection of Federal lessees and surface owners.

Stipulates that nothing in this Act shall be construed as increasing or diminishing the rights of any owner of coal in Alaska to conduct or authorize surface coal mining operations, for coal conveyed out of Federal ownership to the State of Alaska or pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Requires that such surface coal mining operations meet the requirement of this Act.

Provides for the protection of the owners of interests in water resources affected by a surface coal mining operation.

Provides for the certification and training of persons engaging in or directly responsible for blasting or use of explosives in surface coal mining operations.

=Title VIII: University Coal Research Laboratories= - Directs the Administrator of the Energy Research and Development Administration to designate, after considering certain relevant criteria, ten institutions of higher education at which university coal research laboratories will be established and operated. Allows any such institution of higher education to apply for such laboratory. Authorizes the Director to provide financial aid to pay for the Federal share of the costs of establishing and maintaining such a laboratory. Limits the permissible amount of such payments.

Establishes an Advisory Council on Coal Research to advise the Director on the administration on this title. Directs the Council to report annually to the President on its findings and recommendations.

Authorizes the appropriation of $30,000,000 for fiscal year 1979, and $7,500,000 for each of the following fiscal years through 1983, to carry out the purposes of this title.

=Title IX: Energy Resource Graduate Fellowships= - Authorizes the Administrator to award 1,000 fellowships, in fiscal years 1979-1984, for graduate study in those areas of applied science related to the production, conservation and utilization of energy. Requires that recipients of such fellowship: (1) have been accepted by an institution of higher education for graduate study leading to a degree, and (2) plan a career in the field of energy resources, production or utilization. Provides for the necessary stipends and allowances to such recipients and institutions. Authorizes the appropriation of $11,000,000 for each of the fiscal years in the period 1979-1984.

Authorizes the Secretary to conduct and promote research studies relating to coal mining technologies providing alternatives to surface disturbance and appropriation of $35,000,000 for each of the fiscal years in the period 1979-1983, for such purposes.