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 - 203
Division of Mined Land Reclamation
P.O. Drawer 900
Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219
TOPIC: WATER SUPPLY REPLACEMENT FOR UNDERGROUND MINING (Includes COALEX STATE INQUIRY REPORTS Nos. 35 & 93)
INQUIRY: Please locate any information which discusses the state regulatory authority's ability to regulate water supply replacement for underground mining operations.
SEARCH RESULTS: Using the COALEX Library and other materials available in LEXIS, research was conducted in SMCRA legislative history, regulatory history, caselaw (federal and state) and administrative decisions (Interior and Pennsylvania). The findings are discussed below; copies of retrieved materials plus two existing COALEX State Inquiry Reports, are attached.
In July, 1991, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) issued a Notice of Inquiry indicating it was seeking comments on the need for additional rulemaking on, among several topics, the replacement of water supplies damaged by underground mining. [56 FR 33170 (JULY 18, 1991). Notice of inquiry. Underground mining performance standards -- Subsidence.] Two Notices of Public Meetings followed. [56 FR 37194 (AUGUST 5, 1991). Notice of public meeting. Underground mining performance standards -- Subsidence. 56 FR 49286 (AUGUST 14, 1991). Notice of public meeting. Underground mining performance standards -- Subsidence.] No proposed rules have been published to date.
Three federal decisions addressed the question of whether underground mine operators are covered by the water damage provision of SMCRA and the accompanying regulations. The most recent case, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION v HODEL, 839 F 2d 694 (DC Cir 1988), provides a history of the issue:
"In 1979 Secretary Andrus promulgated regulations requiring operators of all mines, surface and underground, to replace damaged water supplies. 44 FED. REG. 15430 (1979). On review of a challenge by Industry, the district court struck down those regulations as exceeding statutory authority, because sec. 717(b) only mentions operators of surface coal mines, and no other provisions of the Act authorized the Secretary to compel replacement of water damaged by underground operators. PSMRL I (Round II), 19 E.R.C. at 1495. In 1983 Secretary Watt promulgated new regulations that did not require underground mine operators to replace damaged water supplies. NWF challenged these regulations, arguing both that the terms of sec. 717(b) require underground operators to replace damaged water supplies, and that a similar replacement requirement can be inferred from the permitting requirements of sec. 508(a)(13) of the Act. The district court upheld the 1983 regulation, reaffirming its earlier pronouncement that sec. 717(b) does not apply to underground mines and consistent with that interpretation, refusing to read any water replacement requirement for underground mines into the permitting requirements of sec. 508(a)(13). PSMRL II (Round III), 620 F. Supp. at 1533."
[The 1979 (excerpts) and the 1983 preambles to the regulations, as well as the 1980 and 1985 court decisions are attached.]
In discussing the contradictions between SMCRA sec. 717(b)'s water replacement provisions and sec. 508(a)(13)'s permitting requirements, the court suggested:
"A more credible claim could be made that sec. 508(a)(13)(C), by requiring both surface and underground mine operators to provide a description of their plans to provide alternate sources of water where protection of the water supply cannot be assured, authorizes the Secretary to do something with that information, i.e., to require underground mine operators to replace damaged water supplies, or to allow state regulatory authorities to require from underground mine operators, as a permit condition, commitments to replace damaged water supplies. But even under that interpretation, the Secretary would not be compelled to impose a water replacement requirement on underground mine operators, since SMCRA clearly affords the Secretary wide discretion in the application of permit requirements to underground mines.... In fact, Secretary Watt relied on that discretion to exempt underground mine operators from the information requirements of sec. 508(a)(13)(C)."
COALEX STATE INQUIRY REPORT - 35, "Water Rights and Replacement" (1985) provides the legislative history of SMCRA sec. 717, regulatory history of 30 CFR 779.17 and 816.54 [corresponding to SMCRA secs. 717(b) and 508(a)(13)], and available caselaw.
COALEX STATE INQUIRY REPORT - 93, "Water Rights and Replacement" (1988) updates Report No. 35. It addresses the question: Is there an acceptable level of water quality for water replacement and how long is the operator liable for maintenance of the replacement source? Two decisions from the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board are discusses and an Interior Directive is attached.
ADDITIONAL LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
120 CONG. REC. H23639 (daily ed. July 16, 1974) (statement of Rep. Evans). In this excerpt, Rep. Evans discusses the introduction of two amendments to HR 11500 (SMCRA of 1974).
123 CONG. REC. S8083 (daily ed. May 20, 1977) (statement of Sen. Danforth). Discussion of amendment to SMCRA of 1977.
1977 versions of SMCRA sections:
ADDITIONAL REGULATORY HISTORY
52 FR 45920 (DECEMBER 2, 1987). Final rule. Underground coal mining activities; hydrologic balance; protection recharge capacity. The preamble cites to the legislative history and the 1979 rules to prove that:
"The limited effect of underground operations on surface recharge capacity has been recognized from the outset of regulation under the Act."
UTAH POWER & LIGHT CO. v OSM, Docket Nos. UT-001; TU 6-1-PR (1988). This consent decree states that the State of Utah and Utah Power agree to the inclusion of a condition to the permit requiring the replacement of water supplies adversely affected by Utah Power's mining operations.
OSM DIRECTIVE, Subject No. REG-27, Transmittal No. 474, "Water Replacement" (Issued October 19, 1988). This directive is a guide for implementing 717(b) where OSM is the regulatory authority and also for evaluating water supply replacement provisions of approved State programs.
Research conducted by: Joyce Zweben Scall