Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 45.2. Mines, Minerals, and Energy
Chapter 10. Virginia Coal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1979
12/8/2021

§ 45.2-1028. (Effective October 1, 2021) Designating areas unsuitable for coal surface mining.

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

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

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

4. Any determination of the unsuitability of a land area for coal surface mining made pursuant to 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 any land area (i) on which a coal surface mining operation was being conducted on August 3, 1977; (ii) on which a coal surface mining operation was being conducted under a permit issued pursuant to the provisions of the federal act; or (iii) where substantial legal and financial commitments in either such operation were in existence prior to January 4, 1977.

B. Prior to designating any land area as unsuitable for a coal surface mining operation, 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 that is or could be adversely affected has 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 petition shall contain allegations of facts with supporting evidence that would tend to establish the allegations. Within 10 months after receipt of the petition, the Department shall hold a public hearing in the locality in which the affected area is located, after appropriate notice and publication of the date, time, and location of the hearing. After a person having an interest that is or could be adversely affected has filed a petition but before the hearing required by this subsection has taken place, any person may intervene by filing allegations of facts with supporting evidence that would tend to establish the allegations. The Director shall issue and furnish to the petitioner and any other party to the hearing, within 60 days after such hearing, a written decision regarding the petition and the reasons therefor. In the event that all petitioners stipulate agreement prior to the hearing and withdraw their requests, such hearing need not be held.

D. Subject to valid existing rights, no coal surface mining operation, except an operation that existed on August 3, 1977, shall be permitted:

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

2. That will adversely affect any publicly owned park or any site listed in the National Register of Historic Places unless approved jointly by the Director and the 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 a mine access road or haulage road joins such right-of-way line. However, the Director may permit such mine access or haulage road to be relocated or the area affected to lie within 100 feet of such public 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 of any occupied dwelling, unless waived by the owner thereof; within 300 feet of any public building, school, church, community or institutional building, or public park; or within 100 feet of a cemetery.

1979, c. 290, § 45.1-252; 1984, c. 590; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

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.