Section 9-16-93

Violations; inspection by authority; remedial actions; hearing; action by Attorney General.

(a) Whenever, on the basis of any information available to it, including receipt of information from any person, the regulatory authority has reason to believe that any person is in violation of any requirement of this article or any permit condition required by this article, the regulatory authority shall immediately order an inspection of the surface coal mining operation at which the alleged violation is occurring unless the same information is available to the regulatory authority as a result of a previous inspection. When the inspection results from information provided to the regulatory authority by any person, the regulatory authority shall notify such person when the inspection is proposed to be carried out and such person shall be allowed to accompany the inspector during the inspection. The regulatory authority shall consult with all state and federal agencies charged with the enforcement of mine safety regulations and shall ensure that the person accompanying the inspector complies with appropriate safety standards and regulations. The regulatory authority shall provide that the person accompanying the inspector assumes the risk of personal injury where such injury results from conduct of the operator which is neither negligent nor intentional and where the person accompanying the inspector fails to comply with appropriate safety standards and regulations.

(b) When on the basis of an inspection by an authorized representative of the regulatory authority, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative determines that any condition or practice exists or that any permittee is in violation of any requirement of this article or any permit condition required by this article, and such violation, condition, or practice also creates an imminent danger to the health or safety of the public, or is causing or can reasonably be expected to cause significant imminent environmental harm to land, air, or water resources, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative shall immediately order a cessation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations or the portion thereof relevant to the condition, practice, or violation of this article. Such cessation order shall remain in effect until the regulatory authority or its authorized representative determines that the condition, practice, or violation has been abated, or until modified, vacated, or terminated by the regulatory authority or its authorized representative pursuant to subsection (e) or by the hearing officer. Where the regulatory authority finds that the ordered cessation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations, or any portion thereof, will not completely abate the imminent danger to the health or safety of the public or the significant, imminent environmental harm to land, air, or water resources, the regulatory authority, in addition to the cessation order, shall impose affirmative obligations on the operator requiring him or her to take whatever steps the regulatory authority deems necessary to abate the imminent danger or the significant, imminent harm.

(c) When on the basis of an inspection by an authorized representative of the regulatory authority, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative determines that any permittee is in violation of any requirement of this article, including any permit condition required by this article, but such violation does not create an imminent danger to the health or safety of the public or cannot be reasonably expected to cause significant, imminent environmental harm to land, air, or water resources, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative shall issue a notice to the permittee or his or her agent fixing a reasonable time, but not more than 90 days, for the abatement of the violation and providing opportunity for an informal conference. If, upon expiration of the period of time as originally fixed or subsequently extended, for good cause shown and upon the written findings of the regulatory authority or its authorized representative, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative finds that the violation has not been abated, a cessation order shall immediately be issued for the relevant portion of the surface coal mining and reclamation operation including the entire operation, if relevant. Such cessation order shall remain in effect until modified, vacated, or terminated by the regulatory authority or its authorized representative pursuant to subsection (e) or until the regulatory authority or its authorized representative determines that the violation has been abated. In the order of cessation the regulatory authority shall determine the steps necessary to abate the violation in the most expeditious manner possible and shall include the necessary measures in the order. Actions taken by the regulatory authority under this subsection may be reviewed by a hearing officer pursuant to Sections 9-16-78 and 9-16-79.

(d) When, on the basis of an inspection, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative determines that a pattern of violations of any requirements of this article or any permit conditions exists or has existed, and if the regulatory authority or its authorized representative also find that such violations are caused by the unwarranted failure of the permittee to comply with any requirements of this article or any permit conditions, or that such violations are willfully caused by the permittee, the regulatory authority or its authorized representative shall forthwith issue an order to show cause as to why the permit should not be suspended or revoked and shall provide opportunity for a public hearing before a hearing officer pursuant to Sections 9-16-78 and 9-16-79. If a hearing is requested, the hearing officer shall inform all interested parties of the time and place of the hearing. Upon the permittee's failure to show cause as to why the permit should not be suspended or revoked, the hearing officer shall forthwith suspend or revoke the permit. If the hearing officer revokes the permit, the permittee shall immediately cease surface coal mining operations on the permit area and shall complete reclamation within a period specified by the hearing officer or the hearing officer shall declare as forfeited the performance bonds for the operation.

(e) Notices and orders issued pursuant to this section shall set forth with reasonable specificity the nature of the violation and the remedial action required, the period of time established for abatement, and a reasonable description of the portion of the surface coal mining and reclamation operation to which the notice or order applies. Each notice or order issued under this section shall be given promptly to the permittee or his or her agent by the regulatory authority or its authorized representative who issues such notice or order and all such notices and orders shall be in writing and shall be signed by the regulatory authority or such authorized representative. Any notice or order issued pursuant to this section may be modified, vacated, or terminated by the regulatory authority or its authorized representative. Provided, that any notice or order issued pursuant to this section which requires cessation of mining by the operator shall expire within 30 days of actual notice to the operator or his or her agent, unless a public hearing is held at the site or within such reasonable proximity to the site that any viewings of the site can be conducted during the course of the public hearing.

(f)(1) The regulatory authority may request the Attorney General to institute a civil action for relief, including a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or any other appropriate order in the circuit court for the county in which the surface coal mining and reclamation operation is located or in which the permittee thereof has his or her principal office, whenever such permittee or his or her agent does any of the following:

a. Violates or fails or refuses to comply with any order or decision issued by the regulatory authority under this article.

b. Interferes with, hinders, or delays the regulatory authority or his or her authorized representatives in carrying out this article.

c. Refuses to admit such authorized representative to the mine.

d. Refuses to permit inspection of the mine by such authorized representative.

e. Refuses to furnish any information or report requested by the regulatory authority in furtherance of this article .

f. Refuses to permit access to, and copying of, such records as the regulatory authority determines necessary in carrying out this article.

(2) Such court shall have jurisdiction to provide such relief as may be appropriate. Temporary restraining orders shall be issued in accordance with Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure as amended. Any relief granted by the court to enforce an order under paragraph a. shall continue in effect until the completion or final termination of all proceedings for review of such order under this article, unless, prior thereto, the circuit court granting such relief sets it aside or modifies it.

(Acts 1981, No. 81-435, p. 682, §25; Acts 1983, No. 83-774, p. 1415, §1; Act 2010-498, p. 759, §1.)