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
9/25/2020

§ 45.1-263. Right of entry, acquisition, disposition and reclamation of land adversely affected by past coal mining practices.

A. The Director shall take all reasonable actions to obtain written consent from the owner or owners of record of the land or property to be entered onto to perform an inspection for purposes of reclamation or for conducting studies or exploratory work pertaining to the need for and feasibility of reclamation, prior to such entry.

B. If the Director, pursuant to an approved state program, makes a finding of fact that:

1. Land or water resources have been adversely affected by past coal mining practices;

2. The adverse effects are at a state where, in the public interest, action to restore, reclaim, abate, control, or prevent should be taken; and

3. The owners of the land or water resources where entry must be made to restore, reclaim, abate, control, or prevent the adverse effects of past coal mining practices are not known, or readily available; or

4. The owners will not give permission for the Director or his agents, employees, or contractors to enter upon such property to restore, reclaim, abate, control or prevent the adverse effects of past coal mining practices, then, upon giving notice by certified mail to the owners if known or if not known by posting notice upon the premises and advertising once in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality or county in which the land lies, the Director, his agents, employees, or contractors shall have the right to enter upon the property adversely affected by past coal mining practices and any other property to have access to such property to do all things necessary or expedient to restore, reclaim, abate, control or prevent the adverse effects. Such entry shall be construed as an exercise of the police power for the protection of public health, safety and general welfare and shall not be construed as an act of condemnation of property nor of trespass thereon. The moneys expended for such work and the benefits accruing to any such premises so entered upon shall be chargeable against such land to the extent provided in § 45.1-264, and shall mitigate or offset any claim in or any action brought by any owner of any interest in such premises for any alleged damages by virtue of such entry; provided, however, that this provision is not intended to create new rights of action or eliminate the existing sovereign immunity of the Commonwealth and its agents and employees.

C. The Director, his agents, employees, or contractors shall have the right to enter upon any property for the purpose of conducting studies or exploratory work to determine the existence of adverse effects of past coal mining practices and to determine the feasibility of restoration, reclamation, abatement, control, or prevention of such adverse effects. Such entry shall be construed as an exercise of the police power for the protection of public health, safety and general welfare and shall not be construed as an act of condemnation of property nor trespass thereon.

D. The Director, pursuant to an approved state program, may acquire title in the name of the Commonwealth to any land or interest therein by purchase, donation, or condemnation, if such land or interest is adversely affected by past coal mining practices, after approval of the Secretary and upon a determination that acquisition of such land is necessary to successful reclamation, and that:

1. The acquired land, after restoration, reclamation, abatement, control, or prevention of the adverse effects of past coal mining practices, will serve recreation and historic purposes, conservation and reclamation purposes or provide open space benefits; and

2. Permanent facilities such as a treatment plant or a relocated stream channel will be constructed on the land for the restoration, reclamation, abatement, control or prevention of the adverse effects of past coal mining practices; or

3. Acquisition of coal refuse disposal sites and all coal refuse thereon will serve the purposes of this article or that public ownership is desirable to meet emergency situations and prevent recurrences of the adverse effects of past coal mining practices.

The price paid for land acquired under this section shall reflect the market value of the land as adversely affected by past coal mining practices.

E. The Director, with the approval of the Secretary, and in accordance with the State Reclamation Plan, may:

1. Transfer the administrative responsibility for land acquired under this section to any state, regional, or local agency, department, or institution, with or without cost, upon such terms as will insure that the use of the land is consistent with the authorization under which the land was acquired;

2. Sell land acquired under this section which is suitable for industrial, commercial, residential, or recreational development, by public sale under a system of competitive bidding, at not less than fair market value and under such regulations promulgated to insure that such lands are put to proper use consistent with local, state or federal land use plan, if any, for the area in which the land is located; and

3. Transfer land acquired under this section to the United States to be reclaimed by the Secretary and after reclamation is completed, any state, regional, or local agency, department, or institution may purchase such land from the Secretary for governmental, educational, recreational, historical, open-space or other public purposes upon such terms as the Secretary may require.

F. Prior to the disposition of any land acquired under this section the Director, pursuant to the State Reclamation Plan, when requested after appropriate public notice shall hold a public hearing in the city or county or cities or counties where the land is located. The hearing shall be held at a time which shall afford local citizens and governments the maximum opportunity to participate in the decision concerning the use or disposition of the lands after restoration, reclamation, abatement, control, or prevention of the adverse effects of past coal mining practices.

G. The Director may authorize the use, pending disposition, of land acquired under this section, for any lawful purpose that is not inconsistent with the reclamation and post-reclamation uses for which the land was acquired. The Director shall charge any user of the land a reasonable use fee, which shall go toward the purpose of operating and maintaining improvement of the land, and any excess thereof shall be deposited in the State Reclamation Fund. The Director may waive the fee if he finds in writing that a waiver is in the public interest.

H. Any state, regional, or local agency, department, or institution may purchase or otherwise acquire and develop lands which the Secretary is authorized to dispose of pursuant to § 407(h) of the federal act.

1979, c. 290.

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.