On March 14, the State Mining and Geology Board’s Policy and Legislation Committee will consider an expanded version of the Surface Mining Inspection Report that is required to be completed annually by cities and counties overseeing surface mines. The Inspection Report’s scope is proposed to be expanded to such an extent that concerns have been raised that it will increase State oversight of these mines, to the detriment of local control. All interested public agencies should submit comments on this proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the Committee's March 14 public hearing in Fresno. Comments may also be submitted prior to the full Board's future action on the revisions.
The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) is based upon local entities, such as cities and counties, having primary responsibility for overseeing surface mines. This includes the local entity approving their land use entitlements and reclamation plans, as well as inspecting mines to verify that requirements are being met. The Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) also has a duty to verify that reclamation plan requirements are being met, and to this extent requires the annual submission of a Surface Mining Inspection Report. Currently, this form requires general information on the adequacy of the required financial assurances for the completion of reclamation, as well as statements of compliance with various general categories of reclamation plan conditions (i.e., revegetation, backfilling, etc.).
The new form expands the scope of OMR’s jurisdiction beyond reclamation plan compliance by requiring compliance information for land use permits and CEQA mitigation measures. This would allow OMR to seek enforcement of matters that are the exclusive jurisdiction of the local lead agency, and could form the basis for the State to potentially take jurisdiction away from the local city or county. Furthermore, the form increases burdens on inspectors by requiring a significantly higher level of detail and determinations as to the status of mines (e.g., “idle mine status” or the presence of vested rights) that present complex legal issues with serious ramifications. This increased detail would also likely increase the cost of conducting inspections.
For further information on the proposed Inspection Report changes and their potential effect on your agency, please contact mining law attorney Fernando Avila or your BB&K attorney.