The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1977) states a need for balance between protection of the environment and agricultural productivity and the nation's need for coal as an essential source of energy. Some provisions:
  • Prime farmland cannot be mined unless it can be restored to an equivalent or higher level of yield.
  • Return land to approximate original contour and land must be restored to a condition capable of supporting the pre-mining land use or a higher or better use.
  • Variances - permission to vary, with justification, from the letter of the law or regulation; permitted if post-mining use would improve watershed.
  • Each state is to assume primacy (authority) for the program. They must establish a mechanism for declaring lands unsuitable for mining if their reclamation is not technologically or economically feasible, contrary to local land use plans, or if the mining affects fragile or historic lands.
  • Establishes a fund for orphan lands - lands that were mined in the past and improperly reclaimed.











   

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