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Laws and Regulations Concerning Coal Mining

Source: Information modified from the Department of Environmental Protection

Concerns over the environmental impacts of coal mining resulted in passage of some of Pennsylvania's very first environmental laws. Regulation of the mining impacts began in earnest in 1913 with the passage of Act 375 prohibiting the discharge of anthracite coal, culm or refuse into streams.

The Clean Streams Law in 1937 was passed largely to protect streams from pollution. It was amended in 1945 to include acid mine drainage and again in 1965 to define acid mine drainage as an industrial waste, requiring all mines to treat their drainage to specified standards.

The Explosives Safety Acts (2) were passed by the state legislature in 1937 and 1957 to regulate the use, storage and handling of explosives primarily to prevent damage from mining operations.

In 1945 the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act was a more comprehensive attempt to regulate surface coal mining. Both the Clean Streams Law and the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act form the basis of modern environmental regulations covering surface coal mining operations.

In 1961 the Anthracite and Bituminous Coal Mine Subsidence Fund created an insurance program to cover damages from deep mine operations causing subsidence.

The Anthracite Coal Mine Act was passed in 1965 to establish a program to prevent pollution from anthracite mining. In 1966 the Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act was passed to protect structures from the effects of deep mining bituminous coal.

In 1968 a $500 million bond issue was passed, in part, to finance the reclamation of abandoned mined lands through a new Operation Scarlift and to purchase land for conservation and recreation purposes. The Coal Refuse Disposal Control Act was passed in that same year to help control pollution from coal refuse piles.

DEP's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety was officially created in the former Department of Environmental Resources in 1979, having been in existence in various forms as part of predecessor agencies back to 1903 in the Department of Mines. Its primary purpose is to improve safety conditions in mines through training and setting safety requirements. The Bureau also investigates mine accidents and conducts mine rescue operations.

In 1980 a second major round of amendments to Pennsylvania's surface mining laws were needed with the passage of the federal law regulating surface mining. Quarries and other industrial mineral mines were regulated under a separate state law for the first time in 1984 after the Noncoal Surface Mining and Conservation Act was passed.

In 1992 the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act was amended to better protect water supplies and provide incentives for remining previously abandoned areas.

The Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act was amended in 1994 to better protect water supplies affected by deep coal mining and to revise the procedures for repairing or replacing buildings damaged by mine subsidence. Legislation was also passed to encourage the siting of coal refuse disposal areas on lands previously affected by mining (Act 114).

In 1996 the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act was amended one more time to further encourage the private reclamation of abandoned mine lands through remining.

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