Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 45.1. Mines and Mining
Chapter 19. Virginia Coal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1979
6/14/2021

§ 45.1-252. Designating areas unsuitable for coal surface mining.

A. 1. The Director shall establish a planning process enabling objective decisions based on competent and scientifically sound data and information as to which, if any, land areas of the Commonwealth are unsuitable for all or certain types of coal surface mining operations pursuant to the standards set forth in subdivisions 2 and 3 of this subsection but such designation shall not prevent the mineral exploration pursuant to this chapter of any area so designated.

2. Upon petition pursuant to subsection C of this section, the Director shall designate an area as unsuitable for all or certain types of coal surface mining operations if he determines that reclamation pursuant to the requirements of this chapter is not technologically and economically feasible.

3. Upon petition pursuant to subsection C of this section, a surface area may be designated unsuitable for certain types of coal surface mining operations if such operations will (i) be incompatible with existing land use plans or programs; or (ii) affect fragile or historic lands in which such operations could result in significant damage to important historic, cultural, scientific and aesthetic values and natural systems; or (iii) affect renewable resource lands in which such operations could result in a substantial loss or reduction of long-range productivity of water supply or of food or fiber products, and such lands to include aquifers and aquifer recharge areas; or (iv) affect natural hazard lands in which such operations could substantially endanger life and property, such lands to include areas subject to frequent flooding and areas of unstable geology.

4. Determinations of the unsuitability of land for coal surface mining, as provided for in this section, shall be integrated as closely as possible with present and future land use planning and regulation processes at the federal, state and local levels.

5. The requirements of this section shall not apply to lands on which coal surface mining operations were being conducted on August 3, 1977, or under a permit issued pursuant to the provisions of the federal act, or where substantial legal and financial commitments in such operation were in existence prior to January 4, 1977.

B. Prior to designating any land areas as unsuitable for coal surface mining operations, the Director shall cause to be prepared a detailed statement on (i) the potential coal resources of the area, (ii) the demand for coal resources, and (iii) the impact of such designation on the environment, the economy and the supply of coal.

C. Any person having an interest which is or may be adversely affected shall have the right to petition the Director to have an area designated as unsuitable for coal surface mining operations, or to have such a designation terminated. Such a petition shall contain allegations of facts with supporting evidence which would tend to establish the allegations. Within ten months after receipt of the petition, the Department shall hold a public hearing in the locality of the affected area, after appropriate notice and publication of the date, time and location of the hearing. After a person having an interest which is or may be adversely affected has filed a petition and before the hearing, as required by this subsection, any person may intervene by filing allegations of facts with supporting evidence which would tend to establish the allegations. The Director shall issue and furnish to the petitioner and any other party to the hearing, within sixty days after such hearing, a written decision regarding the petition and the reasons therefor. In the event that all petitioners stipulate agreement prior to hearing and withdraw their request such hearing need not be held.

D. On and after March 20, 1979, and subject to valid existing rights, no coal surface mining operations, except those which were existing on August 3, 1977, shall be permitted:

1. On any lands within the boundaries of units of the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge Systems, the National System of Trails, the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including study rivers designated under § 5(a) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Recreation Areas designated by act of Congress and any federal lands within the boundaries of any national forest, except as otherwise provided by federal law;

2. Which will adversely affect any publicly owned park or places included in the National Register of Historic Sites unless approved jointly by the Director and federal, state or local agency with jurisdiction over the park or historic site;

3. Within 100 feet of the outside right-of-way line of any public road, except where mine access roads or haulage roads join such right-of-way line and except that the Director may permit such roads to be relocated or the area affected to lie within 100 feet of such road, if after public notice and opportunity for hearing in the locality, a written finding is made that the interests of the public and landowners affected thereby will be protected; or

4. Within 300 feet from any occupied dwelling, unless waived by the owner thereof, nor within 300 feet of any public building, school, church, community, or institutional building, public park, or within 100 feet of a cemetery.

1979, c. 290; 1984, c. 590.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.