SMARA reform bill (SB 209) passes Senate Floor

SB 209 (Pavley), a bill to improve enforcement of California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act passed the Senate Floor.

A wide range of organizations have worked to support this bill including TSF, Environmental Working Group, CA League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action, Wolf Creek Community Alliance, CLAIM-GV, Endangered Habitats League, CA Native Plant Society, San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association, and Center for Biological Diversity.

SB 209 is designed to remedy a number of problems with enforcement of the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA). Research by the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Office of Mine Reclamation has shown that SMARA is enforced inconsistently, and that lead agencies around the state have a spotty record of inspection, enforcement of permit conditions, and reclamation of mines in their jurisdiction. Some mines stop operation and their financial assurances are returned to them without completing required reclamation activities. In some cases, mines that are known to not be in compliance with SMARA law are allowed to operate and sell their products to the State despite the mine’s failure to comply with state law. It has also been documented that many current mine operators do not pay their fees, creating financial strain on the regulatory activities funded by these fees.

The State has an interest in regulating mining to ensure that a mine is operated in compliance with its locally issued permit, which protects the State’s water and air from contamination, and to ensure that when the mine ceases operation it is remediated to be ready for a beneficial end use. SB 209 is a good start to address these issues.