OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT
Library of COALEX Research Reports
COALEX Research Reports are the products of research and analysis conducted on specific issues relating to the regulation of Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The research is conducted in response to requests for information from State Regulatory Authorities, under a cooperative agreement between the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC).
COALEX refers to the Library of Surface Mining Materials maintained by OSM in LEXIS-NEXIS and is a major source for the research.
Each Report includes a list of resources which were sent as attachments to the individual who requested the research. To obtain a copy of the attachments or to obtain any additional information, contact Joyce Zweben Scall by phone at 202-686-9138 or by email at JZScall@aol.com.
COALEX STATE INQUIRY REPORT - 129
October 24, 1989
Assistant Director for Mining
Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy
P.O. Drawer 900
Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219
TOPIC: LANDFILL AS A POSTMINING LAND USE
INQUIRY: Do landfills meet all of the criteria of the law as a postmining land use? Can a company change premining pasture land to a postmining landfill? The state regulatory authorities will allow such postmining use. Is there any OSM information available on this issue?
SEARCH RESULTS: Research was conducted using the COALEX Library and other materials available in LEXIS. No OSM, state or other federal materials were identified which specifically address landfill as a postmining land use. One federal court case and an Interior administrative decision were identified which discuss a related issue: the need for flexibility and control with regard to variances from approximate original contour (AOC). Both opinions cite to the legislative history of SMCRA and "Congressional intent". An excerpt from a Congressional debate is also included. Copies of the items discussed below are attached.
IN RE: SURFACE MINING REGULATION LITIGATION AMERICAN MINING CONGRESS, et al., 627 F.2d 1346 (D.C. Cir May 2, 1980).
In affirming the District Court's ruling "that the interim regulations were not required to contain a general variance mechanism", the Circuit Court cited to "Congressional intent": "The Committee was adamant that there should be no broad exceptions to the vital mining and reclamation standards of this bill. To provide for unlimited exceptions would render the bill meaningless, since it would then be likely that the exceptions would become the rule. On the other hand the committee did recognize that there are some valid and important reasons for allowing limited variances to the prescribed standards of the bill, where such variances provide equal or better protection to the environment and result in a higher post-mining land use. For this reason, there are two provisions in the bill which permit variances to the mining-reclamation standards of the bill. S. Rep. No. 128, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 55 (1977)."
(Excerpts from the Congressional Reports quoted in the opinion are attached.)
123 CONG. REC. S8083 (daily ed. May 20, 1977) (statement of Sen. Ford).
Mr. Ford, the Senator from Kentucky, introduced an amendment to S. 7 "which would provide for a variance from the normal requirement to restore surface mined land to its approximate original contour." Ford felt that Congress "must allow for appropriate departure from the general rule wherever such a variance is desirable and in the public interest."
The issue of control was equally important: "We must guard against a flexible provision that would allow abuses. Obviously, we do not wish to encourage a situation that would allow variances to become the rule."
"As a control mechanism, the request for variance will be subject to certain standards of preparation and review...The regulatory authority would be required to promulgate regulations governing the granting of variances and follow-up evaluation in accordance with the provisions of this amendment and other requirements of this bill."
NICKEL PLATE MINING CO., INC. v OSMRE, Docket No. NX 5-112-R (1987).
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled that the Notice of Violation issued for "failure to return to approximate original contour" was not validly issued. It was Congress's intent that the "AOC standard" be "a flexible standard which contemplates different mining circumstances." In applying Congressional intent to this case, the ALJ compared the "postmining general surface configuration to the premining configuration" and determined that the area was "suitable for its intended postmining use."
(The full text of the OSM Directive and Supreme Court case cited in the decision are included as attachments.)
Research conducted by: Joyce Zweben Scall