Requirement to release performance bonds.
(a) Bond release application.
The permittee may file an application with the regulatory authority for the release of all or part of a performance bond. Applications may be filed only at times or during seasons authorized by the regulatory authority in order to properly evaluate the completed reclamation operations. The times or seasons appropriate for the evaluation of certain types of reclamation shall be established in the regulatory program or identified in the mining and reclamation plan required in subchapter G of this chapter and approved by the regulatory authority.
Within 30 days after an application for bond release has been filed with the regulatory authority, the permittee shall submit a copy of an advertisement placed at least once a week for four successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality of the surface coal mining operation. The advertisement shall be considered part of any bond release application and shall contain the permittee's name, permit number and approval date, notification of the precise location of the land affected, the number of acres, the type and amount of the bond filed and the portion sought to be released, the type and appropriate dates of reclamation work performed, a description of the results achieved as they relate to the permittee's approved reclamation plan, and the name and address of the regulatory authority to which written comments, objections, or requests for public hearings and informal conferences on the specific bond release may be submitted pursuant to § 800.40 (f) and (h). In addition, as part of any bond release application, the permittee shall submit copies of letters which he or she has sent to adjoining property owners, local governmental bodies, planning agencies, sewage and water treatment authorities, and water companies in the locality in which the surface coal mining and reclamation operation took place, notifying them of the intention to seek release from the bond.
The permittee shall include in the application for bond release a notarized statement which certifies that all applicable reclamation activities have been accomplished in accordance with the requirements of the Act, the regulatory program, and the approved reclamation plan. Such certification shall be submitted for each application or phase of bond release.
(b) Inspection by regulatory authority.
Upon receipt of the bond release application, the regulatory authority shall, within 30 days, or as soon thereafter as weather conditions permit, conduct an inspection and evaluation of the reclamation work involved. The evaluation shall consider, among other factors, the degree of difficulty to complete any remaining reclamation, whether pollution of surface and subsurface water is occurring, the probability of future occurrence of such pollution, and the estimated cost of abating such pollution. The surface owner, agent, or lessee shall be given notice of such inspection and may participate with the regulatory authority in making the bond release inspection. The regulatory authority may arrange with the permittee to allow access to the permit area, upon request by any person with an interest in bond release, for the purpose of gathering information relevant to the proceeding.
Within 60 days from the filing of the bond release application, if no public hearing is held pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, or, within 30 days after a public hearing has been held pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, the regulatory authority shall notify in writing the permittee, the surety or other persons with an interest in bond collateral who have requested notification under § 800.21(f), and the persons who either filed objections in writing or objectors who were a party to the hearing proceedings, if any, of its decision to release or not to release all or part of the performance bond.
The regulatory authority may release all or part of the bond for the entire permit area or incremental area if the regulatory authority is satisfied that all the reclamation or a phase of the reclamation covered by the bond or portion thereof has been accomplished in accordance with the following schedules for reclamation of Phases I, II, and III:
At the completion of Phase I, after the operator completes the backfilling, regrading (which may include the replacement of topsoil) and drainage control of a bonded area in accordance with the approved reclamation plan, 60 percent of the bond or collateral for the applicable area.
At the completion of Phase II, after revegetation has been established on the regraded mined lands in accordance with the approved reclamation plan, an additional amount of bond. When determining the amount of bond to be released after successful revegetation has been established, the regulatory authority shall retain that amount of bond for the revegetated area which would be sufficient to cover the cost of reestablishing revegetation if completed by a third party and for the period specified for operator responsibility in section 515 of the Act for reestablishing revegetation. No part of the bond or deposit shall be released under this paragraph so long as the lands to which the release would be applicable are contributing suspended solids to streamflow or runoff outside the permit area in excess of the requirements set by section 515(b)(10) of the Act and by subchapter K of this chapter or until soil productivity for prime farmlands has returned to the equivalent levels of yield as nonmined land of the same soil type in the surrounding area under equivalent management practices as determined from the soil survey performed pursuant to section 507(b)(16) of the Act and part 823 of this chapter. Where a silt dam is to be retained as a permanent impoundment pursuant to subchapter K of this chapter, the Phase II portion of the bond may be released under this paragraph so long as provisions for sound future maintenance by the operator or the landowner have been made with the regulatory authority.
At the completion of Phase III, after the operator has completed successfully all surface coal mining and reclamation activities, the release of the remaining portion of the bond, but not before the expiration of the period specified for operator responsibility in § 816.116 or § 817.116 of this chapter. However, no bond shall be fully released under provisions of this section until reclamation requirements of the Act and the permit are fully met.
If the regulatory authority disapproves the application for release of the bond or portion thereof, the regulatory authority shall notify the permittee, the surety, and any person with an interest in collateral as provided for in § 800.21(f), in writing, stating the reasons for disapproval and recommending corrective actions necessary to secure the release and allowing an opportunity for a public hearing.
When any application for total or partial bond release is filed with the regulatory authority, the regulatory authority shall notify the municipality in which the surface coal mining operation is located by certified mail at least 30 days prior to the release of all or a portion of the bond.
Any person with a valid legal interest which might be adversely affected by release of the bond, or the responsible officer or head of any Federal, State, or local governmental agency which has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental, social, or economic impact involved in the operation or which is authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards with respect to such operations, shall have the right to file written objections to the proposed release from bond with the regulatory authority within 30 days after the last publication of the notice required by § 800.40(a)(2). If written objections are filed and a hearing is requested, the regulatory authority shall inform all the interested parties of the time and place of the hearing, and shall hold a public hearing within 30 days after receipt of the request for the hearing. The date, time, and location of the public hearing shall be advertised by the regulatory authority in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality for two consecutive weeks. The public hearing shall be held in the locality of the surface coal mining operation from which bond release is sought, at the location of the regulatory authority office, or at the State capital, at the option of the objector.
For the purpose of the hearing under paragraph (f) of this section, the regulatory authority shall have the authority to administer oaths, subpoena witnesses or written or printed material, compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of materials, and take evidence including, but not limited to, inspection of the land affected and other surface coal mining operations carried on by the applicant in the general vicinity. A verbatim record of each public hearing shall be made, and a transcript shall be made available on the motion of any party or by order of the regulatory authority.
Without prejudice to the right of an objector or the applicant, the regulatory authority may hold an informal conference as provided in section 513(b) of the Act to resolve such written objections. The regulatory authority shall make a record of the informal conference unless waived by all parties, which shall be accessible to all parties. The regulatory authority shall also furnish all parties of the informal conference with a written finding of the regulatory authority based on the informal conference, and the reasons for said finding.
[48 FR 32959, July 19, 1983, as amended at 48 FR 44780, Sept. 30, 1983; 53 FR 998, Jan. 14, 1988; 56 FR 59994, Nov. 26, 1991]