30 CFR § 842.11 - Federal inspections and monitoring.

§ 842.11 Federal inspections and monitoring.

(a) Authorized representatives of the Secretary shall conduct inspections of surface coal mining and reclamation operations as necessary -

(1) To monitor and evaluate the administration of approved State programs. Such monitoring and evaluation inspections shall be conducted jointly with the State regulatory authority where practical and where the State so requests;

(2) To develop or enforce Federal programs and Federal lands programs;

(3) To enforce those requirements and permit conditions imposed under a State program not being enforced by a State, under section 504(b) or section 521(b) of the Act, part 733 of this chapter, or as provided in this section; and

(4) To determine whether any notice of violation or cessation order issued during an inspection authorized under this section has been complied with.

(b)

(1) An authorized representative of the Secretary must immediately conduct a Federal inspection:

(i) When the authorized representative has reason to believe on the basis of any information readily available to him or her, from any source, including any information a citizen complainant or the relevant State regulatory authority submits (other than information resulting from a previous Federal inspection), that there exists a violation of the Act, this chapter, the State regulatory program, or any condition of a permit or an exploration approval, or that there exists any condition, practice, or violation that creates an imminent danger to the health or safety of the public or is causing or could reasonably be expected to cause a significant, imminent environmental harm to land, air, or water resources; and

(ii)

(A) There is no State regulatory authority or the Office is enforcing the State regulatory program under section 504(b) or 521(b) of the Act and part 733 of this chapter; or

(B)(1) The authorized representative has notified the State regulatory authority of the possible violation and more than ten days have passed since notification, and the State regulatory authority has not taken appropriate action to cause the violation to be corrected or to show good cause for not doing so, or the State regulatory authority has not provided the authorized representative with a response. After receiving a response from the State regulatory authority, but before a Federal inspection, the authorized representative will determine in writing whether the standards for appropriate action or good cause have been satisfied. A State regulatory authority's failure to respond within ten days does not prevent the authorized representative from making a determination, and will constitute a waiver of the State regulatory authority's right to request review under paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section.

(2) For purposes of this subchapter, an action or response by a State regulatory authority that is not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion under the state program shall be considered “appropriate action” to cause a violation to be corrected or “good cause” for failure to do so.

(3) Appropriate action includes enforcement or other action authorized under the approved State program to cause the violation to be corrected. Appropriate action may include OSMRE and the State regulatory authority immediately and jointly initiating steps to implement corrective action to resolve any issue that the authorized representative and applicable Field Office Director identify as a State regulatory program issue, as defined in 30 CFR part 733.

(4) Good cause includes:

(i) The possible violation does not exist under the State regulatory program;

(ii) The State regulatory authority has initiated an investigation into a possible violation and as a result has determined that it requires a reasonable, specified additional amount of time to determine whether a violation exists. When analyzing the State regulatory authority's response for good cause, the authorized representative has discretion to determine how long the State regulatory authority should reasonably be given to complete its investigation of the possible violation and will communicate to the State regulatory authority the date by which the investigation must be completed. At the conclusion of the specified additional time, the authorized representative will re-evaluate the State regulatory authority's response including any additional information provided;

(iii) The State regulatory authority demonstrates that it lacks jurisdiction over the possible violation under the State regulatory program;

(iv) The State regulatory authority demonstrates that it is precluded from taking action on the possible violation because an administrative review body or court of competent jurisdiction has issued an order concluding that the possible violation does not exist or that the temporary relief standards of the State regulatory program counterparts to section 525(c) or 526(c) of the Act have been satisfied; or

(v) Regarding abandoned sites, as defined in 30 CFR 840.11(g), the State regulatory authority is diligently pursuing or has exhausted all appropriate enforcement provisions of the State regulatory program.

(C) The person supplying the information supplies adequate proof that an imminent danger to the public health and safety or a significant, imminent environmental harm to land, air or water resources exists and that the State regulatory authority has failed to take appropriate action.

(iii)

(A) The authorized representative shall immediately notify the state regulatory authority in writing when in response to a ten-day notice the state regulatory authority fails to take appropriate action to cause a violation to be corrected or to show good cause for such failure. If the State regulatory authority disagrees with the authorized representative's written determination, it may file a request, in writing, for informal review of that written determination by the Deputy Director. Such a request for informal review may be submitted to the appropriate OSMRE field office or to the office of the Deputy Director in Washington, DC. The request must be received by OSMRE within 5 days from receipt of OSMRE's written determination.

(B) Unless a cessation order is required under § 843.11, or unless the state regulatory authority has failed to respond to the ten-day notice, no Federal inspection action shall be taken or notice of violation issued regarding the ten-day notice until the time to request informal review as provided in § 842.11(b)(1)(iii)(A) has expired or, if informal review has been requested, until the Deputy Director has completed such review.

(C) After reviewing the written determination of the authorized representative and the request for informal review submitted by the State regulatory authority, the Deputy Director shall, within 15 days, render a decision on the request for informal review. He shall affirm, reverse, or modify the written determination of the authorized representative. Should the Deputy Director decide that the State regulatory authority did not take appropriate action or show good cause, he shall immediately order a Federal inspection or reinspection. The Deputy Director shall provide to the State regulatory authority and to the permittee a written explanation of his decision, and if the ten-day notice resulted from a request for a Federal inspection under § 842.12 of this part, he shall send written notification of his decision to the person who made the request.

(2) An authorized representative will have reason to believe that a violation, condition, or practice referred to in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section exists if the facts that a complainant alleges, or facts that are otherwise known to the authorized representative, constitute simple and effective documentation of the alleged violation, condition, or practice. In making this determination, the authorized representative will consider any information readily available to him or her, from any source, including any information a citizen complainant or the relevant State regulatory authority submits to the authorized representative.

(c) The Office, when acting as the regulatory authority under a Federal program or a Federal lands program and when enforcing a State program, in whole or in part, pursuant to section 504(b) of section 521(b) of the Act and part 733 of this chapter, shall conduct inspections of all coal exploration and surface coal mining and reclamation operations under its jurisdiction. The Office shall -

(1) With respect to active surface coal mining and reclamation operations:

(i) Conduct an average of at least one partial inspection per month of each active surface coal mining and reclamation operation. A partial inspection is an on-site or aerial review of a person's compliance with some of the permit requirements and conditions imposed under an applicable program.

(A) Aerial inspections shall be conducted in a manner which reasonably ensures the identification and documentation of conditions at each surface coal mining and reclamation site inspected.

(B) Any potential violation observed during an aerial inspection shall be investigated on site within three calendar days: Provided, That any indication of a condition, practice or violation constituting cause for issuance of a cessation order under section 521(a)(2) shall be investigated on site immediately, And provided further, That an on-site investigation of a potential violation observed during an aerial inspection shall not be considered to be an additional partial or complete inspection for the purposes of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section.

(ii) Conduct an average of at least one complete inspection per calendar quarter of each active surface coal mining and reclamation operation. A complete inspection is an on-site review of a person's compliance with all permit conditions and requirements imposed under the applicable program within the entire area disturbed or affected by surface coal mining and reclamation operations.

(2) With respect to inactive surface coal mining and reclamation operations:

(i) Conduct an average of at least one complete inspection per calendar quarter of each inactive surface coal mining and reclamation operation; and

(ii) Conduct such partial inspections of each inactive surface coal mining and reclamation operation as are necessary to ensure effective enforcement of the regulatory program and the Act.

(iii) For purposes of this section, an inactive surface coal mining and reclamation operation is one for which -

(A) The Office has secured from the permittee the written notice provided for under §§ 816.131(b) or 817.131(b) of this chapter; or,

(B) Reclamation Phase II as defined at § 800.40 of this chapter has been completed.

(3) With respect to coal exploration operations, conduct such inspections as are necessary to ensure compliance with the Act by those coal explorations which substantially disturb the natural land surface.

(d) The inspections required under paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section shall:

(1) Be carried out on an irregular basis, so as to monitor compliance at all operations, including those which operate nights, weekends, or holidays;

(2) Occur without prior notice to the permittee or any agent or employee of such permittee, except for necessary on-site meetings; and

(3) Include the prompt filing of inspection reports adequate to enforce the requirements of the applicable program.

(e) Abandoned site means a surface coal mining and reclamation operation for which the Office has found in writing that:

(1) All surface and underground coal mining and reclamation activities at the site have ceased;

(2) The Office has issued at least one notice of violation or the initial program equivalent, and either:

(i) Is unable to serve the notice despite diligent efforts to do so; or

(ii) The notice was served and has progressed to a failure-to-abate cessation order or the initial program equivalent;

(3) The Office:

(i) Is taking action to ensure that the permittee and operator, and owners and controllers of the permittee and operator, will be precluded from receiving future permits while violations continue at the site; and

(ii) Is taking action pursuant to sections 518(e), 518(f), 521(a)(4) or 521(c) of the Act or their regulatory program counterparts to ensure that abatement occurs or that there will not be a recurrence of the failure-to-abate, except where after evaluating the circumstances it concludes that further enforcement offers little or no likelihood of successfully compelling abatement or recovering any reclamation costs; and

(4) Where the site is, or was, permitted or bonded:

(i) The permit has either expired or been revoked; and

(ii) The Office has initiated and is diligently pursuing forfeiture of, or has forfeited, any available performance bond.

(f) In lieu of the inspection frequency established in paragraph (c) of this section, the office shall inspect each abandoned site on a set frequency commensurate with the public health and safety and environmental considerations present at each specific site, but in no case shall the inspection frequency be set at less than one complete inspection per calendar-year.

(1) In selecting an alternate inspection frequency authorized under the paragraph above, the office shall first conduct a complete inspection of the abandoned site and provide public notice under paragraph (f)(2) of this section. Following the inspection and public notice, the office shall prepare and maintain for public review a written finding justifying the alternative inspection frequency selected. This written finding shall justify the new inspection frequency by affirmatively addressing in detail all of the following criteria:

(i) How the site meets each of the criteria under the definition of an abandoned site under paragraph (e) of this section and thereby qualifies for a reduction inspection frequency;

(ii) Whether, and to what extent, there exist on the site impoundments, earthen structures or other conditions that pose, or may reasonably be expected to ripen into, imminent dangers to the health or safety of the public or significant environmental harms to land, air or water resources;

(iii) The extent to which existing impoundments or earthen structures were constructed and certified in accordance with prudent engineering designs approved in the permit;

(iv) The degree to which erosion and sediment control is present and functioning;

(v) The extent to which the site is located near or above urbanized areas, communities, occupied dwellings, schools and other public or commercial buildings and facilities;

(vi) The extent of reclamation completed prior to abandonment and the degree of stability of unreclaimed areas, taking into consideration the physical characteristics of the land mined and the extent of settlement or revegetation that has occurred naturally with time; and

(vii) Based on a review of the complete and partial inspection report record for the site during at least the last two consecutive years, the rate at which adverse environmental or public health and safety conditions have and can be expected to progressively deteriorate.

(2) The public notice and opportunity to comment required under paragraph (f)(1) of this section shall be provided as follows:

(i) The office shall place a notice in the newspaper with the broadest circulation in the locality of the abandoned site providing the public with a 30-day period in which to submit written comments.

(ii) The public notice shall contain the permittee's name, the permit number, the precise location of the land affected, the inspection frequency proposed, the general reasons for reducing the inspection frequency, the bond status of the permit, the telephone number and address of the office where written comments on the reduced inspection frequency may be submitted, and the closing date of the comment period.

[47 FR 35635, Aug. 16, 1982, as amended at 48 FR 44781, Sept. 30, 1983; 53 FR 24882, June 30, 1988; 53 FR 26744, July 14, 1988; 59 FR 60884, Nov. 28, 1994; 75 FR 60276, Sept. 29, 2010; 85 FR 75190, Nov. 24, 2020]

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