In the case of any deposit of coalbed methane where the United States is the owner of the surface estate or where the United States has transferred the surface estate but reserved the subsurface mineral estate, the Secretary of the Interior shall administer this section. This section and the definitions contained herein shall be applicable only on lands within Affected States.
If an Affected State has not placed in effect, by statute or by regulation, a substantial program promoting the permitting, drilling and production of coalbed methane wells (including pooling arrangements) within that State within 3 years after becoming an Affected State, the Secretary of the Interior, with the participation of the Secretary of Energy, shall administer this section and shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section in that State.
Except where State law in an Affected State contains existing spacing requirements regarding the minimum distance between coalbed methane wells and the minimum distance of a coalbed methane well from a property line, the Secretary of the Interior shall establish such requirements within 90 days after the assertion of jurisdiction pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.
Applications to establish spacing units for the drilling and operation of coalbed methane gas wells may be filed by any entity claiming a coalbed methane ownership interest within a proposed spacing unit. Upon receipt and approval of an application, the Secretary of the Interior shall issue an order establishing the boundaries of the coalbed methane spacing unit. Spacing units shall generally be uniform in size.
All coalbed methane wells drilled after October 24, 1992, that penetrate coal seams with remaining reserves shall provide for subsequent safe mining through the well in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with any Federal and State agencies having authority over coal mine safety. Well plugging costs should be allocated in accordance with State law or private contractual arrangement, as the case may be.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent or inhibit the entity which has the right to develop and mine coal in any mine from venting coalbed methane gas to ensure safe mine operations.
The Secretary of the Interior shall comply with all applicable Federal and State coal mine safety laws and regulations.