SMARA Reform Bills Advance in Senate and Assembly

Two important new pieces of legislation to improve implementation and enforcement of surface mining in California are poised to be taken up as soon as next week on the floor of the Senate and Assembly, almost the final step before heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  SB 209 (Pavley) and AB 1142 (Gray) have both moved ahead with support from a diverse set of interested parties including county supervisors, mining industry advocates and conservationists.

“After a year of good-faith and technical negotiation between stakeholders, in a process facilitated by the Governor’s office, we have come to an agreement that everyone is happy to support,” notes Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund.  “These bills are joined together, and together they clarify the rules around financial bonding for mine reclamation, requirements to inspect mines, and other key issues that will improve the process of approving and later reclaiming mines in our state.”

California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), signed into law in 1975 during Governor Brown’s first term in office, required mines for the first time to reclaim the land after operations ended.  Specifically, SMARA requires that any mines operated after 1976 be reclaimed in preparation for a beneficial end use.  California is the only state in the nation where local government agencies regulate mines.  All other states continue to assign this power to the state under the federal 1872 Surface Mining Act.