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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

4VAC25-130-785.17. Prime Farmland.

(a) This section applies to any person who conducts or intends to conduct surface coal mining and reclamation operations on prime farmlands historically used for cropland. This section does not apply to:

(1) Lands on which surface coal mining and reclamation operations are conducted pursuant to any permit issued prior to August 3, 1977; or

(2) Lands on which surface coal mining and reclamation operations are conducted pursuant to any renewal or revision of a permit issued prior to August 3, 1977; or

(3) Lands included in any existing surface coal mining operations for which a permit was issued for all or any part thereof prior to August 3, 1977, provided that:

(i) Such lands are part of a single continuous surface coal mining operation begun under a permit issued before August 3, 1977; and

(ii) The permittee had a legal right to mine the lands prior to August 3, 1977, through ownership, contract, or lease but not including an option to buy, lease, or contract; and

(iii) The lands contain part of a continuous recoverable coal seam that was being mined in a single continuous mining pit (or multiple pits if the lands are proven to be part of a single continuous surface coal mining operation) begun under a permit issued prior to August 3, 1977.

(4) For purposes of this section:

(i) "Renewal" of a permit shall mean a decision by the division to extend the time by which the permittee may complete mining within the boundaries of the original permit, and "revision" of the permit shall mean a decision by the division to allow changes in the method of mining operations within the original permit area, or the decision of the division to allow incidental boundary changes to the original permit;

(ii) A pit shall be deemed to be a single continuous mining pit even if portions of the pit are crossed by a road, pipeline, railroad, or powerline or similar crossing;

(iii) A single continuous surface coal mining operation is presumed to consist only of a single continuous mining pit under a permit issued prior to August 3, 1977, but may include non-contiguous parcels if the permittee can prove by clear and convincing evidence that, prior to August 3, 1977, the noncontiguous parcels were part of a single permitted operation. For the purposes of this Paragraph, clear and convincing evidence includes, but is not limited to, contracts, leases, deeds or other properly executed legal documents (not including options) that specifically treat physically separate parcels as one surface coal mining operation.

(b) Application contents-reconnaissance inspection.

(1) All permit applications, whether or not prime farmland is present, shall include the results of a reconnaissance inspection of the proposed permit area to indicate whether prime farmland exists. The division in consultation with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service shall determine the nature and extent of the required reconnaissance inspection.

(2) If the reconnaissance inspection establishes that no land within the proposed permit area is prime farmland historically used for cropland, the applicant shall submit a statement that no prime farmland is present. The statement shall identify the basis upon which such a conclusion was reached.

(3) If the reconnaissance inspection indicates that land within the proposed permit area may be prime farmland historically used for cropland, the applicant shall determine if a soil survey exists for those lands and whether soil mapping units in the permit area have been designated as prime farmland. If no soil survey exists, the applicant shall have a soil survey made of the lands within the permit area which the reconnaissance inspection indicates could be prime farmland. Soil surveys of the detail used by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service for operational conservation planning shall be used to identify and locate prime farmland soils.

(i) If the soil survey indicates that no prime farmland soils are present within the proposed permit area, Paragraph (b)(2) of this section shall apply.

(ii) If the soil survey indicates that prime farmland soils are present within the proposed permit area, Paragraph (c) of this section shall apply.

(c) Application contents-prime farmland. All permit applications for areas in which prime farmland has been identified within the proposed permit area shall include the following:

(1) A soil survey of the permit area according to the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey and in accordance with the procedures set forth in U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbooks 436 "Soil Taxonomy" (U.S. Soil Conservation Service, 1975) as amended on March 22, 1982 and October 5, 1982, and 18, "Soil Survey Manual" (U.S. Soil Conservation Service, 1951), as amended on December 18, 1979, May 7, 1980, May 9, 1980, September 11, 1980, June 9, 1981, June 29, 1981, November 16, 1982. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service establishes the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey and maintains a National Soils Handbook which gives current acceptable procedures for conducting soil surveys. This National Soils Handbook is available for review at area and State NRCS offices.

(i) U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbooks 436 and 18 are incorporated by reference.

(ii) The soil survey shall include a description of soil mapping units and a representative soil profile as determined by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, including, but not limited to, soil-horizon depths, pH, and the range of soil densities for each prime farmland soil unit within the permit area. Other representative soil-profile descriptions from the locality, prepared according to the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey, may be used if their use is approved by the State Conservationist, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. The division may request the applicant to provide information on other physical and chemical soil properties as needed to make a determination that the applicant has the technological capability to restore the prime farmland within the permit area to the soil-reconstruction standards of Part 823.

(2) A plan for soil reconstruction, replacement, and stabilization for the purpose of establishing the technological capability of the permittee to comply with the requirements of Part 823.

(3) Scientific data, such as agricultural-school studies, for areas with comparable soils, climate, and management that demonstrate that the proposed method of reclamation, including the use of soil mixtures or substitutes, if any, will achieve, within a reasonable time, levels of yield equivalent to, or higher than, those of nonmined prime farmland in the surrounding area.

(4) The productivity prior to mining, including the average yield of food, fiber, forage, or wood products obtained under a high level of management.

(d) Consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

(1) The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has responsibilities with respect to prime farmland soils and has assigned the prime farmland responsibilities arising under the Federal Act to the Chief of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service shall carry out consultation and review through the State Conservationist located in each State.

(2) The State Conservationist shall provide to the division a list of prime farmland soils, their location, physical and chemical characteristics, crop yields, and associated data necessary to support adequate prime farmland soil descriptions.

(3) The State Conservationist shall assist the division in describing the nature and extent of the reconnaissance inspection required in Paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

(4) Before any permit is issued for areas that include prime farmland, the division shall consult with the State Conservationist. The State Conservationist shall provide for the review of, and comment on, the proposed method of soil reconstruction in the plan submitted under Paragraph (c) of this section. If the State Conservationist considers those methods to be inadequate, he shall suggest revisions to the division which result in more complete and adequate reconstruction.

(e) Issuance of permit. A permit for the mining and reclamation of prime farmland may be granted by the division if it first finds, in writing, upon the basis of a complete application, that:

(1) The approved proposed postmining land use of these prime farmlands will be cropland;

(2) The permit incorporates as specific conditions the contents of the plan submitted under Paragraph (c) of this section, after consideration of any revisions to that plan suggested by the State Conservationist under Paragraph (d)(4) of this section.

(3) The applicant has the technological capability to restore the prime farmland, within a reasonable time, to equivalent or higher levels of yield as non-mined prime farmland in the surrounding area under equivalent levels of management; and

(4) The proposed operations will be conducted in compliance with the requirements of Part 823 and other environmental protection performance and reclamation standards for mining and reclamation of prime farmland of the regulatory program.

(5) The aggregate total prime farmland acreage shall not be decreased from that which existed prior to mining. Water bodies, if any, to be constructed during mining and reclamation operations must be located within the post-reclamation non-prime farmland portions of the permit area. The creation of any such water bodies must be approved by the division and the consent of all affected property owners within the permit area must be obtained.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from VR480-03-19 § 785.17, eff. December 15, 1981; amended, eff. June 28, 1982; October 28, 1982; December 14, 1982; October 11, 1983; December 27, 1983; May 8, 1984; June 22, 1984; August 2, 1984; October 16, 1985; January 7, 1987; July 22, 1987; November 25, 1987; October 12, 1988; December 26, 1990; July 1, 1991; July 17, 1991; November 20, 1991; July 7, 1992; May 5, 1993; October 19, 1994.

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