Mining Law Reform Legislation Moves Closer to the Governor's Desk

Two companion bills that together would enact the most significant reforms in more than twenty years to California’s mining law, the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (“SMARA”), are headed to the Senate and Assembly floors for a final vote. Assembly Bill 1142 (Gray) and Senate Bill 209 (Pavley) propose changes and improvements to SMARA’s annual inspection provisions, enforcement provisions, financial assurance requirements, and reclamation plan review processes. These bills were put forward in response to Governor Brown’s call for “top to bottom” SMARA reform.

If signed into law, AB 1142 and SB 209 would do the following:

  • Provide better financial accountability and transparency for state administration, lead agency support, and enforcement activities;
  • Create a new, standalone review and approval process for financial assurances, new state authority to review the adequacy of financial assurances approved by local lead agencies, and new procedures and timelines for operators to revise financial assurances found to be inadequate. The bills would also provide for partial corporate self-bonding upon demonstration of corporate financial standing;
  • Specify new and clarified reclamation plan organization and content requirements, and establish a clear reclamation plan review and approval process with specific timelines;
  • Establish a clarified enforcement process, new authority for local agencies and the state to reclaim abandoned mine sites, and strengthened authority to collect administrative penalties;
  • Create new annual mine inspection timing and report requirements and a new training program for mine inspectors;
  • Enact a clarified, progressive lead agency “takeover” process, with a new “intermediate” remedy to allow lead agencies to correct regulatory deficiencies;
  • Provide interim management procedures for “borrow pits” that are owned and operated by local lead agencies; and
  • Gradually increase mine operator annual fees to $10,000 annually; fees will be increased to $6,000 in 2017-18; $8,000 in 2018-19; and to the maximum $10,000 beginning in 2019-20.

The full text of AB 1142 can be accessed here; the text of SB 209 can be accessed here. The precise timing for a final vote on both bills is uncertain, but because they are “two-year” bills, both must be approved before the end of the legislative session this fall.

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Categories: Articles, Mining, SMARA