Chronology of Major SMCRA-Related Events
This unofficial chronology lists major events related to implementation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).
August 3, 1977
President Carter signs SMCRA into law. The Act establishes the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department of the Interior to carry out the provisions of the law. SMCRA was the first federal environmental statute to regulate a specific industry as opposed to a specific type of pollution. It created two major programs:
- An abandoned mine land (AML) reclamation program, funded by fees that operators pay on each ton of coal produced, to reclaim land and water resources adversely affected by coal mines abandoned before August 3, 1977.
- A regulatory program to ensure that surface coal mining operations initiated or in existence after the effective date of the Act are conducted and reclaimed in an environmentally sound manner.
Congress first held hearings on surface coal mining regulation in 1968.
Two bills passed in 1974 and 1975 were vetoed.
December 13, 1977
Initial regulatory program regulations published along with regulations governing assessment and collection of reclamation fees.
OCTOBER 25, 1978
OSMRE publishes final rules for administration of the abandoned mine land reclamation program.
MARCH 31, 1979
OSMRE publishes final rules for the permanent regulatory program.
JUNE 22, 1987
First annual Excellence in Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Awards presented to mine operators.
JULY 11, 1987
Public Law 100-71 authorizes the Navajo, Hopi, and Crow Tribes to administer abandoned mine land reclamation programs on Indian lands without first having approved regulatory programs. The tribes subsequently obtain approval of their AML reclamation plans between May 1988 and January 1989.
The Applicant/Violator System (AVS) becomes operational. The AVS is an automated database and information system into which OSMRE and the state regulatory authorities enter information on applicants, permittees, operators, application and permit records, as well as unabated or uncorrected violations. The primary purpose of the AVS is to assist OSMRE and the states in making permit eligibility determinations under section 510(c) of SMCRA.
First prototype of Technical Information Processing workstations installed in Montana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. The TIPS (Technical Innovation and Professional Services) program has since become one of the most effective tools available to all states to analyze and make informed decisions on permit applications.
October 24, 1992
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 becomes law. Among other things, this act requires that underground mine operators replace drinking, domestic, and residential water supplies damaged by underground mining after this date and correct subsidence damage to occupied residential and noncommercial structures caused by underground mining operations conducted after this date.
December 20, 2006
The SMCRA Amendments Act of 2006 substantially overhauls the AML reclamation program by, among other things, extending reclamation fee collection through September 30, 2021, at incrementally reduced rates, requiring Treasury payments to certified states and tribes in lieu of payments from the AML Fund, providing a permanent appropriation for disbursements from the AML Fund, and requiring allocation of disbursements from the AML Fund on the basis of historic coal production. The law greatly increased the funds available for reclamation of AML problems and the flexibility that states and tribes have in using those funds.
The law also amended SMCRA to allow Indian tribes to achieve primacy for the regulation of all or part of surface coal mining operations conducted on reservation lands.