Alabama Regulatory Program

Summary:

We, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), are approving an amendment to the Alabama regulatory program (Alabama program) under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA or the Act). At its own initiative, Alabama proposed revisions to its regulations regarding permit fees and civil penalties to improve operational efficiency.

Table of Contents

For further information contact:

Sherry Wilson, Director, Birmingham Field Office. Telephone: (205) 290-7282. E-mail:swilson@osmre.gov.

Supplementary information:

I. Background on the Alabama Program

II. Submission of the Amendment

III. OSM's Findings

IV. Summary and Disposition of Comments

V. OSM's Decision

VI. Procedural Determinations

I. Background on the Alabama Program

Section 503(a) of the Act permits a State to assume primacy for the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations on non-Federal and non-Indian lands within its borders by demonstrating that its State program includes, among other things, “a State law which provides for the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations in accordance with the requirements of this Act * * *; and rules and regulations consistent with regulations issued by the Secretary pursuant to this Act.” See 30 U.S.C. 1253(a)(1) and (7). On the basis of these criteria, the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) conditionally approved the Alabama program on May 20, 1982. You can find background information on the Alabama program, including the Secretary's findings, the disposition of comments, and the conditions of approval, in the May 20, 1982, Federal Register(47 FR 22030). You can find later actions on the Alabama program at 30 CFR 901.10, 901.15, and 901.16.

II. Submission of the Amendment

By letter dated July 18, 2008 (Administrative Record No. AL-0658), and at its own initiative, Alabama sent us an amendment to its program under SMCRA (30 U.S.C. 1201et seq.). The amendment also included changes to its regulations regarding permit fees and civil penalties.

We announced receipt of the proposed amendment in the August 8, 2008, Federal Register(73 FR 46213). In the same document, we opened thepublic comment period and provided an opportunity for a public hearing or meeting on the adequacy of the amendment. We did not hold a public hearing or meeting because no one requested one. The public comment period ended on September 8, 2008. We did not receive any comments.

III. OSM's Findings

Following are the findings we made concerning the amendment under SMCRA and the Federal regulations at 30 CFR 732.15 and 732.17. We are approving the amendment to the Alabama Surface Mining Commission (ASMC) regulations as described below.

A. ASMC 880-X-8B-.07. Permit Fees

Alabama stated that its permit fees have remained unchanged for 26 years while the costs of reviewing, administering, and enforcing permits have increased substantially over this time. As a result, Alabama proposed to revise its regulations at ASMC 880-X-8B-.07 by:

(1) Increasing the acreage fee from $25 to $35 per acre for each acre in a permit, (2) Requiring an acreage fee on all “bonded” acreage covered in a permit renewal instead of on “all” acreage in a permit renewal, and

(3) Increasing the basic fees for the following types of applications:

(a) Permit application—the fee increases from $2500 to $5000,

(b) Coal exploration application—the fee increases from $1000 to $2000,

(c) Permit renewal—the fee increases from $500 to $1000,

(d) Permit transfer—the fee increases from $100 to $200,

(e) Permit revision involving only an incidental boundary revision—the fee increases from $250 to $500,

(f) Permit revision involving an insignificant alteration to the mining and reclamation plan—the fee increases from $750 to $1500, and

(g) Permit revision involving a significant alteration to the mining and reclamation plan—the fee increases from $1500 to $3000.

The Federal regulations at 30 CFR 777.17, concerning permit fees, provide that applications for surface coal mining permits must be accompanied by a fee determined by the regulatory authority. The Federal regulations also provide that the fees may be less than, but not more than the actual or anticipated cost of reviewing, administering, and enforcing the permit. In its letter dated July 18, 2008 (Administrative Record No. AL-0658), Alabama advised us that the increase in the permit fees will not exceed the actual or anticipated costs of reviewing, administering, and enforcing the permit.

We find that Alabama's proposed permit fees are reasonable and are consistent with the discretionary authority provided by the Federal regulations at 30 CFR 777.17. Therefore, we are approving them.

B. ASMC 880-X-11D-.06. Determination of Amount of Penalty

To help offset increased costs of agency operations, Alabama proposed to increase the dollar amounts of its civil penalties. The current penalties begin with $20 and increase to a maximum penalty of $5,000. The revised penalties begin with $150 and increase to a maximum penalty of $5,000.

Section 518(i) of SMCRA requires that the civil penalty provisions of each State program contain penalties which are “no less stringent than” those set forth in SMCRA. Our regulations at 30 CFR 840.13(a) specify that each State program shall contain penalties which are no less stringent than those set forth in section 518 of the Act and that they be consistent with 30 CFR part 845. However, in a 1980 decision on OSM's regulations governing civil monetary penalties (CMPs), the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that because section 518 of SMCRA fails to enumerate a point system for assessing civil penalties, the imposition of this requirement upon the States is inconsistent with SMCRA. In response to the Secretary's request for clarification, the Court further stated that it could not uphold requiring the States to impose penalties as stringent as those appearing in 30 CFR 845.15. Instead, section 518(i) of the Act requires only the incorporation of penalties and procedures explained in section 518. The system proposed by the State must incorporate the four criteria of section 518(a) of SMCRA: (1) History of previous violations, (2) seriousness of the violation, (3) negligence of the permittee, and (4) good faith of the permittee in attempting to achieve compliance. As a result of the litigation, 30 CFR 840.13(a) was suspended in part on August 4, 1980 (45 FR 51548) by suspending the requirement that penalties shall be consistent with 30 CFR part 845. Consequently, we cannot require that the CMP provisions contained in a State's regulatory program mirror the penalty provisions of our regulations at 30 CFR 845.14 and 845.15.

We are approving Alabama's revised penalties because when determining the amount of the civil penalty, ASMC 880-X-11D uses the four criteria specified in the Federal statute at section 518(a).

IV. Summary and Disposition of Comments

Public Comments

We asked for public comments on the amendment, but did not receive any.

Federal Agency Comments

On August 12 and 21, 2008, under 30 CFR 732.17(h)(11)(i) and section 503(b) of SMCRA, we requested comments on the amendment from various Federal agencies with an actual or potential interest in the Alabama program (Administrative Record No. AL-0658-01). We did not receive any comments.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Concurrence and Comments

Under 30 CFR 732.17(h)(11)(ii), we are required to get a written concurrence from EPA for those provisions of the program amendment that relate to air or water quality standards issued under the authority of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251et seq.) or the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401et seq.).

None of the revisions that Alabama proposed to make in this amendment pertain to air or water quality standards. Therefore, we did not ask EPA to concur on the amendment.

On date, under 30 CFR 732.17(h)(11)(i), we requested comments on the amendment from EPA (Administrative Record No. AL-0658-01). EPA did not respond to our request.

State Historical Preservation Officer (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)

Under 30 CFR 732.17(h)(4), we are required to request comments from the SHPO and ACHP on amendments that may have an effect on historic properties. On August 12, 2008, we requested comments on Alabama's amendment (Administrative Record No. AL-0658-01), but neither responded to our request.

V. OSM's Decision

Based on the above findings, we approve the amendment Alabama sent us on July 18, 2008.

To implement this decision, we are amending the Federal regulations at 30 CFR part 901, which codify decisions concerning the Alabama program. We find that good cause exists under 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to make this final rule effective immediately. Section 503(a) of SMCRA requires that the State's program demonstrate that the State has the capability of carrying out the provisions of the Act and meeting its purposes. Making this rule effective immediately will expedite that process.SMCRA requires consistency of State and Federal standards.

VI. Procedural Determinations

Executive Order 12630—Takings

This rule does not have takings implications. This determination is based on the analysis performed for the counterpart Federal regulation.

Executive Order 12866—Regulatory Planning and Review

This rule is exempted from review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866.

Executive Order 12988—Civil Justice Reform

The Department of the Interior has conducted the reviews required by section 3 of Executive Order 12988 and has determined that this rule meets the applicable standards of subsections (a) and (b) of that section. However, these standards are not applicable to the actual language of State regulatory programs and program amendments because each program is drafted and promulgated by a specific State, not by OSM. Under sections 503 and 505 of SMCRA (30 U.S.C. 1253 and 1255) and the Federal regulations at 30 CFR 730.11, 732.15, and 732.17(h)(10), decisions on proposed State regulatory programs and program amendments submitted by the States must be based solely on a determination of whether the submittal is consistent with SMCRA and its implementing Federal regulations and whether the other requirements of 30 CFR parts 730, 731, and 732 have been met.

Executive Order 13132—Federalism

This rule does not have Federalism implications. SMCRA delineates the roles of the Federal and State governments with regard to the regulation of surface coal mining and reclamation operations. One of the purposes of SMCRA is to “establish a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations.” Section 503(a)(1) of SMCRA requires that State laws regulating surface coal mining and reclamation operations be “in accordance with” the requirements of SMCRA, and section 503(a)(7) requires that State programs contain rules and regulations “consistent with” regulations issued by the Secretary pursuant to SMCRA.

Executive Order 13175—Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments

In accordance with Executive Order 13175, we have evaluated the potential effects of this rule on Federally-recognized Indian tribes and have determined that the rule does not have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. This determination is based on the fact that the Alabama program does not regulate coal exploration and surface coal mining and reclamation operations on Indian lands. Therefore, the Alabama program has no effect on Federally-recognized Indian tribes.

Executive Order 13211—Regulations That Significantly Affect the Supply, Distribution, or Use of Energy

On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 which requires agencies to prepare a Statement of Energy Effects for a rule that is (1) considered significant under Executive Order 12866, and (2) likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy. Because this rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866 and is not expected to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy, a Statement of Energy Effects is not required.

National Environmental Policy Act

This rule does not require an environmental impact statement because section 702(d) of SMCRA (30 U.S.C. 1292(d)) provides that agency decisions on proposed State regulatory program provisions do not constitute major Federal actions within the meaning of section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)).

Paperwork Reduction Act

This rule does not contain information collection requirements that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3507et seq.).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Department of the Interior certifies that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601et seq.). The State submittal, which is the subject of this rule, is based upon counterpart Federal regulations for which an economic analysis was prepared and certification made that such regulations would not have a significant economic effect upon a substantial number of small entities. In making the determination as to whether this rule would have a significant economic impact, the Department relied upon the data and assumptions for the counterpart Federal regulations.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule: (a) Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million; (b) Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; and (c) Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. This determination is based upon the fact that the State submittal, which is the subject of this rule, is based upon counterpart Federal regulations for which an analysis was prepared and a determination made that the Federal regulation was not considered a major rule.

Unfunded Mandates

This rule will not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector of $100 million or more in any given year. This determination is based upon the fact that the State submittal, which is the subject of this rule, is based upon counterpart Federal regulations for which an analysis was prepared and a determination made that the Federal regulation did not impose an unfunded mandate.

List of subjects in 30 cfr part 901

Intergovernmental relations, Surface mining, Underground mining.

Dated: September 12, 2008. Alfred E. Whitehouse,

Acting Regional Director, Mid-Continent Region.

For the reasons set out in the preamble, 30 CFR part 901 is amended as set forth below:

Part 901—alabama

1. The authority citation for part 901 continues to read as follows:

Authority:

30 U.S.C. 1201et seq.

2. Section 901.15 is amended in the table by adding a new entry inchronological order by “Date of final publication” to read as follows: § 901.15 * * * * *
Original amendment submission dateDate of final publicationCitation/description
*******
July 18, 2008 September 23, 2008 ASMC 880-X-8B-.07 and 880-X-11D-.06.

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