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Critical Aspects of the Proposed Federal Surface Mining Legislation

William E. Hynan, Western Coal Development (1973)

Before undertaking an analysis of the proposed federal surface mining legislation, a brief outline of where the coal industry stands on this critical issue will provide an essential backdrop to our discussion.

Contrary to the impression created by some of the news media and by some of the more emotional opponents of surface mining, the coal industry, represented by the National Coal Association, supports federal legislation that will require the states to establish and enforce strict regulations for the reclamation of surface mined lands. If the states fail to set up such programs, based on federal criteria, or fail to enforce them, then the federal government should step in and do the job.

Effective reclamation can be achieved because the responsible coal companies are doing it today. The technology exists and, therefore, any legislation should be based on requiring sound reclamation. It should not be based on prohibition or slope limitations. Such over-simplified approaches may sound appealing as rhetoric, but they make poor legislation. There are no short cut solutions to the complicated problems involved. Legislation should be corrective and not punitive or arbitrarily onerous.

Think for a moment, and I believe you will agree with us, that it is in the self interest of the responsible segment of the coal industry, which is trying to do a good job,