Under proposed Senate Bill 1270 (Pavley), the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) would be substantially revised, reducing the role of local agencies in regulating mines in their jurisdictions. Because SB 1270 would also place tighter and more expensive restrictions on the mining industry, the bill may adversely affect local economies that rely on revenues and economic activity created by mining operations. The bill is currently before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. In response to SB 1270, several local agencies have submitted or are in the process of submitting letters of opposition to Senator Pavley’s office.
SB 1270 would directly affect local agencies by transferring some of their key responsibilities under the SMARA to the Office of Mine Reclamation (which would be renamed the “Division of Mines”). Specifically, local agencies would no longer be responsible for inspecting mines, as this would be done by the newly-created post of State Mine Inspector. Also, local agencies would no longer set the amount of the financial assurance required for a mine’s reclamation, as this would be handled by the Director of the Department of Conservation. Furthermore, the bill would allow third parties to challenge (via the State Mining and Geology Board) the actions of a local agency in approving a reclamation plan, and would remove local agency discretion in issuing notices of violation to mines in their jurisdiction.
Local mining operations could also be adversely affected by SB 1270. For instance, the bill would substantially increase annual reporting fees to $1,000 per acre, with no maximum. More importantly, a mine’s listing on the AB 3098 list (which is a requirement in order to be able to sell materials to the state, such as concrete or asphalt to CalTrans) can be challenged by the public, which could give opponents of mining a means to economically injure a mine and, indirectly, a local economy.