The Legislature finds that there are a substantial number of acres of land throughout the state that were disturbed by surface-mining operations prior to the time of present day effective control and regulation. There was little or no reclamation conducted and the impacts from these unreclaimed lands impose social and economic costs on residents in nearby and adjoining areas as well as continue to impair environmental quality, prevent or damage the beneficial use of land or water resources, or endanger the health and safety of the public.
Further, the Legislature finds and declares that, due to the passage of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, certain areas within the boundaries of this state do not meet present day standards for reclamation.
Further, the Legislature finds that Title IV of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, Public Law 95-87, provides for the collection of thirty-five cents per ton of coal produced from surface-mine operations and fifteen cents per ton of coal produced from underground mine operations in West Virginia to be collected by the secretary of the United States department of the interior until the thirtieth day of September, two thousand four. At least fifty percent of the funds collected are to be allocated directly to the state of West Virginia to accomplish reclamation of abandoned coal mining operations, as of the date the state of West Virginia obtained an approved abandoned mine reclamation plan in accordance with Sections 405 and 503 of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, as amended.
Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature by this article to vest jurisdiction and authority in the director of the division of environmental protection to maintain program approval by, and receipt of funds from, the United States department of the interior to accomplish the desired restoration and reclamation of our land and water resources.