TX NATURAL RESOURCES CODE

TITLE 3. OIL AND GAS

SUBTITLE A. ADMINISTRATION

CHAPTER 134. TEXAS SURFACE COAL MINING AND RECLAMATION ACT

SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS



§ 134.001. SHORT TITLE.
     This chapter may be cited as the Texas Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

§ 134.002. FINDINGS AND DECLARATION OF POLICY.
     The legislature finds and declares that:
          (1) the Congress of the United States has enacted the federal Act, which provides for the establishment of a nationwide program to regulate surface coal mining and reclamation and which vests exclusive authority in the Department of the Interior over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation in the United States;
          (2) Section 101 of the federal Act contains the finding by Congress that because of the diversity in terrain, climate, biologic, chemical, and other physical conditions in areas subject to mining operations, the primary governmental responsibility for developing, authorizing, issuing, and enforcing regulations for surface mining and reclamation operations subject to that Act should rest with the states;
          (3) Section 503 of the federal Act provides that each state may assume and retain exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations in that state by obtaining approval of a state program of regulation that demonstrates that the state is able to carry out the provisions and meet the purposes of that Act;
          (4) Section 503 of the federal Act further provides that a state wishing to assume exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations in the state must have a state law that provides for the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations in accordance with that Act; and
          (5) this state wishes to assume exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations in the state under the federal Act.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

§ 134.003. PURPOSES.
     It is the purpose of this chapter:
          (1) to prevent adverse effects to society and the environment from unregulated surface coal mining operations as defined by this chapter;
          (2) to assure that the rights of surface landowners and other persons with a legal interest in the land or appurtenances to the land are protected from unregulated surface coal mining operations;
          (3) to assure that surface coal mining operations are conducted in a manner that will prevent unreasonable degradation of land and water resources;
          (4) to assure that reclamation of all land on which surface coal mining takes place occurs as contemporaneously as practicable with the surface coal mining, recognizing that extracting coal by responsible mining operations is an essential and beneficial economic activity;
          (5) to assure that the coal supply essential to this state's energy requirements and to its economic and social well-being is provided and to strike a balance between environmental protection and agricultural productivity and this state's need for coal as an essential source of energy; and
          (6) to promote the reclamation of mined areas left without adequate reclamation before the enactment of the federal Act and that continue, in their unreclaimed condition, substantially to 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.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

§ 134.004. DEFINITIONS.
     In this chapter:
          (1) "Affected person" means a person having an interest that is or may be affected.
          (2) "Alluvial valley floors" means the unconsolidated stream-laid deposits holding streams where water availability is sufficient for subirrigation or flood irrigation agricultural activities. The term does not include upland areas that are generally overlaid by a thin veneer of colluvial deposits composed chiefly of debris from sheet erosion, deposits by unconcentrated runoff or slope wash, together with talus, other mass movement accumulation, or windblown deposits.
          (3) "Applicant" means a person or other legal entity seeking a permit from the commission to conduct surface coal mining activities or underground mining activities under this chapter.
          (4) "Approximate original contour" means the surface configuration achieved by backfilling and grading the mined area so that the reclaimed area, including any terracing or access roads, closely resembles the general surface configuration of the land before mining and blends into and complements the drainage pattern of the surrounding terrain, with all highwalls and spoil piles eliminated.
          (5) "Coal" means all forms of coal and includes lignite.
          (6) "Coal exploration operations" means the substantial disturbance of the surface or subsurface for or related to the purpose of determining the location, quantity, or quality of a coal deposit.
          (7) "Commission" means the Railroad Commission of Texas.
          (8) "Federal Act" means the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. Section 1201 et seq.).
          (9) "Imminent danger to the health or safety of the public" means the existence of a condition or practice or a violation of a permit or other requirement of this chapter in a surface coal mining and reclamation operation that could reasonably be expected to cause substantial physical harm to persons outside the permit area before the condition, practice, or violation can be abated. A reasonable expectation of death or serious injury before abatement exists if a rational person, subjected to the same conditions or practices giving rise to the peril, would not expose himself to the danger during the time necessary for abatement.
          (10) "Operator" means a person engaged in coal mining who removes or intends to remove more than 250 tons of coal from the earth by coal mining within 12 consecutive months in one location.
          (11) "Other minerals" means clay, stone, sand, gravel, metalliferous and nonmetalliferous ores, and other solid materials or substances of commercial value excavated in solid form from natural deposits on or in the earth, exclusive of coal and those minerals that occur naturally in liquid or gaseous form.
          (12) "Permit" means a permit to conduct surface coal mining and reclamation operations or underground mining operations issued by the commission.
          (13) "Permit area" means the area of land indicated on the approved map submitted by the operator with the operator's application, which area of land must be covered by an operator's bond as required by Subchapter F and readily identifiable by appropriate markers on the site.
          (14) "Permit holder" means a person holding a permit to conduct surface coal mining and reclamation operations or underground mining activities under this chapter.
          (15) "Person" means an individual, partnership, society, joint-stock company, firm, company, corporation, business organization, governmental agency, or any organization or association of citizens.
          (16) "Prime farmland" means land that the commission determines meets the criteria prescribed by the secretary of agriculture and published in the Federal Register, including moisture availability, temperature regime, chemical balance, permeability without regard to annual mean soil temperatures, surface layer composition, susceptibility to flooding, and erosion characteristics, and that historically has been used for intensive agricultural purposes. Land has not historically been used for the production of cultivated crops if:
               (A) the land has been used as woodland or rangeland; or
               (B) the only cultivation has been disking to:
                    (i) establish or help maintain bermuda grass used as forage; or
                    (ii) plant oats or rye for quick cover, to be used as forage and not as a grain crop.
          (17) "Secretary of agriculture" means the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.
          (18) "Secretary of the interior" means the secretary of the United States Department of the Interior.
          (19) "Surface coal mining and reclamation operations" means surface coal mining operations and the activities necessary and incidental to the reclamation of those operations.
          (20) "Surface coal mining operations" means:
               (A) activities conducted on the surface of land in connection with a surface coal mine or subject to the requirements of Section 134.015 incidental to an underground coal mine, including excavation for the purpose of obtaining coal, including such common methods as contour, strip, auger, mountaintop removal, box cut, open pit, and area mining, the use of explosives and blasting, and in situ distillation or retorting, leaching or other chemical or physical processing, and the cleaning, concentrating, or other processing or preparation, loading of coal at or near the mine site; excluding the extraction of coal incidental to the extraction of other minerals where the coal does not exceed 16-2/3 percent of the total tonnage of coal and other minerals removed annually for purposes of commercial use or sale or coal explorations subject to this chapter; and
               (B) the areas on which those activities occur or where those activities disturb the natural land surface, areas adjacent to land the use of which is incidental to any of those activities, all land affected by the construction of new roads or the improvement or use of existing roads to gain access to the site of those activities and for haulage, and excavations, workings, impoundments, dams, ventilation shafts, entryways, refuse banks, dumps, stockpiles, overburden piles, spoil banks, culm banks, tailings, holes or depressions, repair areas, storage areas, processing areas, shipping areas, and other areas on which are sited structures, facilities, or other property or materials on the surface, resulting from or incident to those activities.
          (21) "Unwarranted failure to comply" means the failure of a permit holder to prevent the occurrence of any violation of the permit holder's permit or any requirement of this chapter due to indifference, lack of diligence, or lack of reasonable care, or the failure to abate any violation of the permit holder's permit or this chapter due to indifference, lack of diligence, or lack of reasonable care.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995. Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, § 25.01(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

§ 134.005. EXEMPTIONS.
     (a) This chapter does not apply to the extraction of coal:
          (1) by a landowner for the landowner's own noncommercial use from land owned or leased by the landowner; or
          (2) incidental to federal, state, or local government-financed highway or other construction under commission rules.
     (b) Subsection (a)(1) does not exempt the noncommercial production of coal by in situ distillation or retorting, leaching, or another chemical or physical process or preparation.
     (c) This chapter does not apply to surface coal mining and reclamation operations in existence before August 3, 1977.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, § 25.01(b), eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

§ 134.006. WATER RIGHTS.
     This chapter does not affect the right of a person under other law to enforce or protect the person's interest in water resources affected by a surface coal mining operation.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

§ 134.007. CONFLICT OF INTEREST;
     OFFENSE.
     (a) An employee of the commission commits an offense if the employee knowingly:
          (1) performs a function or duty under this chapter; and
          (2) has a direct or indirect financial interest in an underground or surface coal mining operation.
     (b) An offense under this section is punishable by:
          (1) a fine of not more than $2,500;
          (2) imprisonment for not more than one year; or
          (3) both the fine and the imprisonment.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, § 12.02(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

§ 134.008. APPLICABILITY TO GOVERNMENTAL UNITS.
     An agency, unit, or instrumentality of federal, state, or local government, including a publicly owned utility or publicly owned corporation of federal, state, or local government, that proposes to engage in surface coal mining operations that are subject to this chapter shall comply with this chapter.

Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, § 25.01(c), eff. Sept. 1, 1997.