U.S. Department of the Interior

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Stephanie Hamlett
Division of Regulatory Support
(202) 208-2802

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Regulating Coal Mines

Title V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act

Protecting the Environment

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) balances the need to protect the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining with the Nation's need for coal as an essential energy source. It ensures that coal mining operations are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner and that the land is adequately reclaimed during and following the mining process. Most coal-mining States now have the primary responsibility to regulate surface coal mining on lands within their jurisdiction, with OSMRE performing an oversight role. OSMRE also partners with States and Indian Tribes to regulate mining on Federal lands and to support States' regulatory programs with grants and technical assistance.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) is the primary regulator of coal mining under SMCRA until a State or Indian Tribe demonstrates that it has developed a regulatory program that meets all of the requirements in the SMCRA and implementing regulations issued by OSMRE (30 CFR Chapter VII). When a State or Indian Tribe submits and receives approval of its proposed regulatory program from OSMRE, it becomes the primary regulator within that State or on reservation lands, respectively, and assumes responsibility over permitting, inspection, and enforcement activities. OSMRE then provides oversight of the State’s or Tribe’s implementation of the regulatory program.
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Funding for States and Indian Tribes


Laws, Regulations, and Guidance

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many States have primacy?
    • Currently, 24 States have primacy: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. There is active coal mining within all these States except Iowa.
  • How many Indian Tribes have primacy?
    • At present, no Tribes have primacy, so OSMRE directly regulates all surface coal mining and reclamation operations on Indian lands, with Tribal input and assistance.
  • How many States have entered into cooperative agreements with the Secretary to regulate coal mining on Federal lands within their borders?
    • Section 523(a) of SMCRA requires the Secretary to establish and implement a Federal regulatory program applicable to all surface coal mining and reclamation operations taking place on Federal lands. Through cooperative agreements, the Secretary may delegate the administration of most surface coal mining requirements for the Federal lands program to States with an approved regulatory program. Currently, the Secretary has entered into cooperative agreements with 14 States: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  • How many States have Federal regulatory programs?
    • OSMRE directly regulates surface coal mining and reclamation activities on non-Federal, non-Indian lands within a State if the State does not adopt its own program pursuant to section 503 of SMCRA. OSMRE currently operates Federal programs in 12 States: Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington. Only Tennessee has active coal mining.

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 7/9/19

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