Summary: S.7 — 95th Congress (1977-1978)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Indefinitely postponed in Senate (05/20/1977)

(Measure indefinitely postponed in Senate, H.R. 2 passed in lieu)

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: Abandoned Mine Reclamation= - 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 State programs. Stipulates that, upon approval of its program, a State will have exclusive responsibility for mine reclamation under this Act. Creates the Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund for the purposes of making grants to such States to be used for the purposes of this title. States that all coal mining operators shall pay, for deposit in such fund, set reclamation fees based on the amounts of coal produced by surface and underground mining.

Restricts the lands eligible for expenditure under this title to those which were mined for coal or were unreclaimed or unrestored prior to the date of enactment of this Act. Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into agreements for the reclamation of certain rural lands.

Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in the absence of a State program, to: (1) enter upon and reclaim land adversely affected by mining; (2) enter a lien against the owner of such land for reclamation expenses; and (3) enter upon any land to perform emergency reclamation. Authorizes the Secretary, at the request of the Governor of any State to fill voids and seal abandoned tunnels.

=Title IV: Control of the Environmental Impacts of Surface Coal Mining= - Directs the Secretary of the Interior to publish, within 90 days of the enactment of this Act, regulations which establish interim 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. Requires the Secretary, within one year after enactment of this Act, to publish regulations which establish permanent regulatory procedure and performance 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.

Apples 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, for a period of 24 months, 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 to 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.

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.

Sets forth the minimum environmental criteria including those standards for obtaining interim permits, which must be required by State or Federal regulatory programs, the Federal Lands Program and the permanent permit programs which regulate surface mining and reclamation for coal. Includes, in the criteria, 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 and submittal 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 United States Court of Appeals 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.

=Title V: University Coal Laboratories= - Directs the Director of the National Science Foundation 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 a 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 VI: Energy Resource Graduate Fellowships= - Authorizes the Director 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 fellowships (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 alternative to surface disturbance and safety and health requirements of such technologies. Authorizes the appropriation of $35,000,000 for each of the fiscal years in the period 1979-1983, for such 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 filling 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 Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality to contract with the National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering and other groups for a study of the technology for surface and open-pit mining and reclamation for minerals other than coal designed to assist in the development or regulation for such operations.

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.

Authorizes the appropriation of the following sums to carry out this Act (1) for various contract authority, $10,000,000 immediately and $10,000,000 for each of the next two fiscal years; and (2) for administrative and other purposes, $10,000,000 for fiscal year 1978, $20,000,000 for fiscal years 1979 and 1980, and $30,000,000 for each fiscal year thereafter.

Provides for the protection of Federal lessees and surface owners.

Directs the Secretary to contract with the National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering for an in-depth study of surface mining in Alaska to determine if any provisions of this Act should be modified with respect to such mining. Directs the Secretary to report to Congress and the President on the results of such study.

=Title VIII: Indian Lands= - Permits any Indian tribe, on whose lands surface coal mining may be conducted, to elect (1) to assume exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of such mining and reclamation operations pursuant to an approved Indian lands program, or (2) to have such a program administered by the Secretary. Permits any tribe to participate in the Indian lands study.

Sets forth the procedure by which an Indian tribe, wishing to assume exclusive jurisdiction over regulation of mining, can obtain approval of its program. Details the requirements of the required initial regulatory procedures.

Authorizes the Secretary to make annual grants to any Indian tribe to assist such tribe in developing, administering and enforcing an Indian lands program.

Directs the Secretary to prepare and implement a Federal program for any Indian tribe that is unwilling or unable to prepare and implement an approved program. States that an Indian tribe may, at any time, elect to have its program administered by the Secretary.

Directs the Secretary to assist the Indian tribes in a study of the regulation of surface coal mining on Indian lands which will achieve the purposes of this Act.

=Title IX: State Coal Mining and Coal Resources and Resources and Research Institutes= - Authorizes the appropriation, to the Secretary, of $200,000 for fiscal year 1978, $300,000, for fiscal year 1979, and $400,000 for the fiscal years 1980-1984, to assist the States in carrying on the work of a coal mining and coal resources research institute. Directs that such an institute be established at a public university with a school of mines in the recipient State. Authorizes the annual appropriation to the Secretary, for seven years, of $15,000,000 in fiscal year 1978, and that sum increased by $2,000,000 in each of the next six fiscal years for research expenses of institutes.

Directs the Secretary to establish an Advisory Committee on Coal Mining and Coal Resources and Research to make recommendations to the Secretary on Coal mining, coal preparation and related research.