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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 4. Conservation and Natural Resources
Agency 25. Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
Chapter 130. Coal Surface Mining Reclamation Regulations
10/21/2020

4VAC25-130-761.16. Submission and Processing of Requests for Valid Existing Rights Determinations.

A. Basic framework for valid existing rights determinations. 30 CFR 761.16(a) identifies the agency responsible for making a valid existing rights determination and the definition that it must use based upon which subsection of 30 CFR 761.11 or 4VAC25-130-761.11 applies and whether the request includes federal lands.

B. A request for a valid existing rights determination must be submitted to the division if a person intends to conduct surface coal mining operations on the basis of valid existing rights under 4VAC25-130-761.11 or wishes to confirm the right to do so. The request may be submitted before the person prepares and submits an application for a permit or boundary revision for the land.

1. The person must provide a property rights demonstration under the definition of valid existing rights if the request relies upon the good faith/all permits or the needed for and adjacent standard set forth in 4VAC25-130.700.5. For the land subject to the request, the demonstration must include:

a. A legal description of the land;

b. Complete documentation of the character and extent of the person's current interests in the surface and mineral estates of the land;

c. A complete chain of title for the surface and mineral estates of the land;

d. A description of the nature and effect of each titles instrument that forms the basis of the request, including any provision pertaining to the type or method of mining or mining-related surface disturbances and facilities;

e. A description of the type and extent of surface coal mining operations that the person claims the right to conduct, including the method of mining, any mining-related surface activities and facilities, and an explanation of how those operations would be consistent with Virginia property law;

f. Complete documentation of the nature and ownership, as of the date that the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11, of all property rights for the surface and mineral estates;

g. Names and addresses of the current owners of the surface and mineral estates of the land;

h. If the coal interests have been severed from other property interests, documentation that the person has notified and provided reasonable opportunity for the owners of other property interests in the land to comment on the validity of the person's property rights claims; and

i. Any comments that the person receives in response to the notification provider under subdivision 1 h of this subsection.

2. If the request relies upon the good faith/all permits standard in subdivision (b)(1) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the person must also submit the following information about permits, licenses, and authorizations for surface coal mining operations on the land subject to the request that the person or predecessor in interest obtained, submitted, or made:

a. Approval and issuance dates and identification numbers for any permits, licenses, and authorizations obtained before the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11.

b. Application dates and identification numbers for any permits, licenses, and authorizations submitted before the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11.

c. An explanation of any other good faith effort made to obtain the necessary permits, licenses, and authorizations as of the date that the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11

3. If the request relies upon the needed for and adjacent standard in subdivision (b)(2) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the person must explain how and why the land is needed for and immediately adjacent to the operation upon which the request is based, including a demonstration that prohibiting expansion of the operation onto that land would unfairly impact the viability of the operation as originally planned before the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11

4. If the request relies upon one of the standards for roads in subdivision (c) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the person must submit satisfactory documentation that:

a. The road existed when the land upon which it is located came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11 and the person has a legal right to use the road for surface coal mining operations;

b. A properly recorded right of way or easement for a road in that location existed when the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11 and under the document creating the right of way or easement and under any subsequent conveyances, the person has a legal right to use or construct a road across that right of way or easement to conduct surface coal mining operations; or

c. A valid permit for use or construction of a road in that location for surface coal mining operations existed when the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11.

C. Initial review of request.

1. The division must conduct an initial review to determine whether the request includes all applicable components of the submission requirements of subsection B of this section. The review pertains only to the completeness of the request, not the legal or technical adequacy of the materials submitted.

2. If the request does not include all applicable components of the submission requirements of subsection B of this section, the division must notify the person and establish a reasonable time for submission of the missing information. Should the person not provide the information requested by the division under this subdivision within the time specified or as subsequently extended, the division must issue a determination under subdivision E 4 of this section that the person has not demonstrated valid existing rights.

3. When the request includes all applicable components of the submission requirements of subsection B of this section, the division must implement the notice and comment requirements of subsection D of this section.

D. 1. When the division determines that the request satisfies the completeness requirements of subsection C of this section, it shall publish a notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the land is located inviting public comment on the merits of the request. OSM will publish a similar notice in the Federal Register if the request involves federal lands within an area listed in 4VAC25-130-761.11 (a) or (b). The public notice must include:

a. The location of the land to which the request pertains.

b. A description of the type of surface coal mining operations planned.

c. A reference to and brief description of the applicable standard or standards under the definition of valid existing rights in 4VAC25-130-700.5.

(1) If the request relies upon the good faith/all permits or the needed for and adjacent standard set forth in the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the notice must include a description of the property rights that the person claims and the basis for the claim.

(2) If the request relies upon the road standard set forth in subdivision (c) (1) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the notice must include a description of the basis for the claim that the road existed when the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 D or 4VAC25-130-761.11. In addition, the notice must include a description of the basis for the claim that the person has a legal right to use that road for surface coal mining operations.

(3) If the request relies upon the standard in subdivision (c) (2) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the notice must include a description of the basis for the claim that a properly recorded right of way or easement for a road in that location existed when the land came under the protection of § 45.1-252 or 4VAC25-130-761.11. In addition, the notice must include a description of the basis for the claim that, under the document creating the right of way or easement, and under any subsequent conveyances, the person has a legal right to use or construct a road across the right of way or easement to conduct surface coal mining operations.

d. If the request relies upon one or more of the standards in subdivisions (b) and (c) (1) and (c) (2) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, a statement that the division will not make a decision on the merits of the request if, by the close of the comment period under the notice or the notice required by subdivision 3 of this subsection, a person with a legal interest in the land initiates appropriate legal action in the proper venue to resolve any differences concerning the validity or interpretation of the deed, lease, easement, or other documents that form the basis of the valid existing rights claim.

e. A description of the procedures the division will follow in processing the request.

f. The closing date of the public comment period, which shall be a minimum of 30 days after the notice's publication date.

g. A statement that interested persons may request, in writing, from the division a 30-day extension of the public comment period. The extension request shall set forth with reasonable specificity the reasons the commenter needs the additional time to submit comments.

h. Include the division office's address where a copy of the valid existing rights request is available for public inspection and where comments and requests for extension of the comment period should be sent.

2. The division must promptly provide a copy of the notice required under subdivision 1 of this subsection to:

a. All reasonably locatable owners of surface and mineral estates in the land included in the valid existing rights request.

b. The owner of the feature causing the land to come under the protection of 4VAC25-130-761.11, and when applicable, the agencies with primary jurisdiction over the feature with respect to the values causing the land to come under the protection of 4VAC25-130-761.11.

3. The notice required under subdivision 2 of this subsection must provide a 30-day comment period and specify that an additional 30 days may be granted for good cause shown at the discretion of the division or agency responsible for the valid existing rights determination.

E.1. The division or agency responsible for making the valid existing rights determination must review the materials submitted under subsection B of this section, comments received under subsection D of this section, and any other relevant, reasonably available information to determine whether the record is sufficiently complete and adequate to support a decision on the merits of the request. If not, the division must notify the person in writing explaining the inadequacy of the record and requesting submittal within a specified reasonable time of any additional information that the division deems necessary to remedy the inadequacy.

2. Once the record is complete and adequate, the division must make a determination as to whether valid existing rights have been demonstrated. The division's decision must explain how the person has or has not satisfied all applicable elements of the valid existing rights definition under 4VAC25-130-700.5, contain findings of fact and conclusions, and specify the reasons for the conclusions.

3. When the request relies upon one or more of the standards in subdivisions (b) and (c) (1) and (2) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, the division:

a. Must issue a determination that the person has not demonstrated valid existing rights if the property rights claim is the subject of pending litigation in a court or administrative body with the jurisdiction over the property rights in question. The division will make the determination without prejudice, meaning that the person may refile the request once the property rights dispute is finally adjudicated. This applies only to situations in which legal action has been initiated as of the closing date of the comment period under subdivisions D 1 and 3 of this section.

b. If the record indicates disagreement of the accuracy of the person's property rights claim, but the disagreement is not the subject of pending litigation in a court or administrative agency of competent jurisdiction, must evaluate the merits of the information in the record and determine whether the person has demonstrated that the requisite property rights exist under subdivision (a), (c) (1) or (c) (2) of the valid existing rights definition in 4VAC25-130-700.5, as appropriate. The division must then proceed with the decision process under subdivision 2 of this subsection.

4. The division must issue a determination that the person has not demonstrated valid existing rights if the person does not submit information that the division requests under subdivision C 2 of this section or subdivision 1 of this subsection within the time specified or as subsequently extended. The division will make the determination without prejudice, meaning the person may refile a revised request at any time.

5. After making a valid existing rights determination, the division shall:

a. Provide a copy of the determination with an explanation of appeal rights and procedures to the person seeking the determination, owner or owners of the land to which the determination applies, owner of the feature causing the land to come under the protection of 4VAC25-130-761.11, and, when applicable, the agency with primary jurisdiction over the feature with respect to the values that caused the land to come under the protection of 4VAC25-130-761.11.

b. Publish notice of the determination in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the land is located. The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) will publish the determination, together with an explanation of appeal rights and procedures in the Federal Register if the request includes federal lands within an area listed in 4VAC25-130-761.11 (a) or (b).

F. The division's valid existing rights determination shall be subject to administrative and judicial review under 4VAC25-130-775.11 and 4VAC25-130-775.13.

G. The division must make a copy of the valid existing rights determination request available to the public as provided by 4VAC25-130-773.13 (d) and the records associated with that request, and any subsequent determination under subsection E of this section, available to the public in accordance with 4VAC25-130-840.14.

Statutory Authority

§§ 45.1-161.3 and 45.1-230 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Volume 29, Issue 13, eff. March 27, 2013.

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