Section 9-16-71

Declaration of public policy and legislative intent; all land surface mined under this article shall be reclaimed.

(a) The objective of this article is to provide for the safe, responsible and reasonable reclamation of lands upon which surface disturbances will be created by surface mining and the surface effects of underground mining so as to protect the taxable value of property and preserve natural resources within the state and protect and promote the health and safety of the people of this state, consistent with the protection of property and with maximum employment and the economic and industrial well-being of the state. The Legislature finds and declares that the extraction of coal by surface mining provides a major present and future source of energy and is an essential and necessary activity which contributes to the economic and material well-being of the state.

(b) The Legislature finds that the unregulated or irresponsible surface mining of coal may cause soil erosion, damage from rolling stones, land slides, and stream pollution, increases the likelihood of floods, reduces the value of land for agricultural purposes, can be detrimental to the conservation of soil, and may create hazards to life and property. It is the intent of the Legislature to assure that surface coal mining operations are not conducted where reclamation as required by this article is not feasible. It is the intent of this article to implement and enforce Public Law 95-87, 30 U.S.C. 1200 et seq., and the permanent regulations promulgated thereunder, as required for the state to retain exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations, provided, that if any provision of Public Law 95-87 or regulations promulgated thereunder which becomes invalidated or suspended by judicial or legislative act, the commission shall suspend enforcement of this state's corresponding provision to the extent of any such judicial or legislative act.

(c) The Legislature further finds that lands subjected to surface coal mining operations and not reclaimed or rehabilitated constitutes the aforementioned perils to the welfare of the state. It is the purpose of this article to promote the reclamation of mined areas left without adequate reclamation prior to the enactment of this article and which continue in their unreclaimed condition to substantially degrade the quality of the environment, prevent or damage the beneficial use of land or water resources, or endanger the health or safety of the public.

(d) The Legislature further finds that surface mining reclamation technology is now developed so that effective and reasonable regulation of surface coal mining operations by the state in accordance with the requirements of this article is an appropriate and necessary means to reduce adverse, economic and environmental effects of surface coal mining operations.

(e) The Legislature finds that a major impediment to effective enforcement of laws regulating coal surface mining is identifying and locating those acting in violation of the law; therefore, in order to protect the health, safety and well-being of the citizens of the State of Alabama, the Legislature intends by this article to require that certain major purchases and users of and dealers in coal within the State of Alabama be required to furnish the commission created by this article with certain information which will assist the commission in the performance of its duties hereunder.

(f) In order to safeguard life, health and property of the citizens of the state, the Legislature intends, by this article, to establish certain qualifications for the obtaining of licenses to engage in the business of surface coal mining operations in the State of Alabama.

(g) The Legislature further finds that there are wide variations in the circumstances and conditions resulting from surface mining due to a diversity in terrain, climate, biologic, hydrologic, geologic, vegetative, chemical and other physical conditions in areas subject to mining operations. By reason of this diversity and its complex nature, it is necessary, in order to achieve the most effective, beneficial, economical, and equitable results, that the provisions of this article shall have a statewide application and shall supersede and render void any local, municipal or county regulation or control of surface coal mining operations; provided that regulations shall be promulgated to account for the diverse technical factors as may be applicable for the state as a whole or may vary from area to area, to account for varying local conditions such as may be appropriate to accomplish the policy and intent of this article.

(h) The Legislature further finds that an authority should be created to administer and enforce the regulatory provisions as enacted by the Legislature.

(i) It is the purpose of this article to provide such regulation and control of surface coal mining operations as will reduce injurious effects to the environment and resources of the state and will promote the following objectives:

(1) Establish a statewide program to reduce adverse effects to the environment resulting from surface coal mining operations;

(2) Provide that surface coal mining operations will be encouraged in the manner consistent with judicious utilization of the natural resources of the state;

(3) Provide that adequate measures are undertaken to reclaim surface mined areas promptly according to the provisions of this article;

(4) Exercise the full reach of state constitutional powers to provide protection of the public interest through effective control of surface coal mining operations; and

(5) Encourage the economic development of the coal resources of the state as a source of energy and other uses.

(j) This article shall not be construed to limit or affect any suit, action, or other proceeding brought to invalidate, set aside or modify, in whole or in part, the Federal Surface Mining Act or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder.

(Acts 1981, No. 81-435, p. 682, §2.)