West Virginia Law Review

Article Title

Special Student Project: Developments under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977



The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) is one of the most significant enactments ever to affect the coal mining industry. In pervasive fashion, it is intended to control virtually every environmental aspect of surface mining as well as all surface effects of underground coal mining. The responsibility for establishing a regulatory program to refine and implement the Act is vested in the United States Department of the Interior. However, as individual regulatory plans are submitted by the states and approved by the Secretary of the Interior, the Act provides for an assumption by the states of primary regulatory authority over mining activities conducted within their borders. As of mid-1980, no state except Texas had assumed primary regulatory authority. Proposed amendments to the SMCRA, changes and uncertainties in the model regulatory program as promulgated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), and challenges to OSM's authority to regulate certain aspects of coal mining have all contributed to the delay in the states' assumption of primary regulatory authority. This Project is intended to note the significant changes and challenges to the SMCRA and to the regulations promulgated thereunder over the period beginning with the issuance of the permanent regulatory program until the present time.