Public participation in the regulatory process has become increasingly common in recent years, especially in environmental matters. The West Virginia Surface Mining and Reclamation Act contains a number of devices by which citizens can present their views concerning proposed strip mines and can compel enforcement of the Act's provisions. The federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, by allowing citizen access to almost every phase of the regulatory process, opens even more avenues for participation than are currently available in West Virginia and other states. An invitation to citizens to take part in these regulatory and enforcement activities represents a recognition on the part of state and federal legislators that interested citizens can make a significant contribution to the public regulatory and enforcement process. But the zealous advocacy that typifies the citizen contribution to these processes often results from citizens' efforts to protect their private interests. In some instances, these interests are not synonymous with the "public interest." For example, the homeowner whose property abuts a proposed strip mine site may well be concerned about the environment, the ecological balance, the scenic beauty of his state, and the purity of his favorite fishing or swimming location. But he is also particularly concerned that his well might dry up, his basement walls crack, or his yard become a resting place for debris. The question may then be raised: To what extent are citizens protected by the statutory procedures available to them? The kinds of procedural stumbling blocks which face individuals who are trying to protect their lives, homes and communities from devastation at the hands of strip mine operators are well illustrated in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals' decision in McGrady v. Callaghan. This Note will examine that decision, and will further examine the newly enacted Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to ascertain whether that legislation might signal an end to some of the frustrations experienced under current state law. In addition, a brief look at some of the other public participation procedures under the new Act might provide some guidance as to what steps interested citizens might take in the future to protect themselves and other members of the public.
Joshua I. Barrett,
Citizen Participation in the Regulation of Surface Mining,
W. Va. L. Rev.
Available at: https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/wvlr/vol81/iss4/7