The State and Federal Programs Branch (SFPB) functions include processing State program amendments, analyzing policy issues related to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and other State and Federal laws; preparing decisions on informal reviews of Ten-Day Notices (TDN) and citizen complaint appeals for the Appalachian Region; and participating in the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative.
To learn more about the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), please visit ARRI's website.
State Program Amendment Processing
State regulatory programs laws and regulations must be as effective as the requirements of SMCRA and Federal Rules. States cannot implement law and rule changes until they are reviewed by SFPB and approved by OSMRE. Therefore, SFPB reviews every informal and formal submission of proposed amendments to the States' regulatory programs. Public comments are requested and considered on all such program changes and a decision document is published in the Federal Register approving or disapproving the State program amendments. To view recent decisions on state program amendments click here.
Policy and Programmatic Issues
SFPB provides policy and programmatic support to the agency and the Appalachian Region on issues that affect the implementation of Federal and State regulatory programs. A few examples would include:
- review of issues regarding post-mining land use and financial assurance (bonding) for post-mining discharges
- matters in litigation, such as subsidence, takings cases and lands unsuitable for mining
- coordination with other Federal laws, such as the National Historic Preservation, National Environmental Policy, Clean Water, Mine Safety and Health, Fish and Wildlife Coordination, and Endangered Species Acts; and
- issues with approved States’ program laws and regulations.
TDN and Citizen Complaint Appeals
When the OSMRE receives information about a possible violation or a citizen complaint alleging a violation of SMCRA, the Federal regulations, an approved State program, or a mining permit, the violation is referred to the approved State Regulatory Authority (SRA) for resolution, using a Ten-Day Notice (TDN). The SRA has ten days to respond to the OSMRE on the action taken about the possible violation. If the Field Office determines that the SRA did not take appropriate action to cause the possible violation to be corrected or exhibit good cause for failing to do so, the SRA may request an informal review of that determination. Additionally, if after receiving the SRA’s response to a citizen’s complaint, the Field Office decides that a Federal inspection or enforcement action is not necessary, any person who may be adversely affected by that decision may also request an informal review. The Regional Director is responsible for deciding to affirm, reverse, or modify the Field Office decision in response to an informal review request. The SFPB assists the Regional Director by processing the informal review requests.
In processing these informal reviews, the SFPB must first gather all relevant information from the Field Office. The SFPB then analyzes the information to determine if the Field Office decision complies with SMCRA, the Federal regulations, the approved State program, applicable OSMRE Directives, and previous court decisions. The SFPB then prepares a summary of the case, briefs the Regional Director, and prepares a draft appeal decision for the Regional Director's signature.
Federal Lands/Federal Program Support
SFPB provides policy and programmatic support to the Appalachian Region for issues associated with implementing the Federal Regulatory Program in Tennessee. The Branch ensures that actions initiated by the Federal Program in Tennessee are consistent with OSMRE’s national and regional policies.
SFPB also provides policy and programmatic support to the Appalachian Region for issues related to federal lands activities. This includes federal permitting, lands unsuitable for mining petitions, compatibility findings for federal lands within National Forests and determinations of valid existing rights on federal lands in areas where mining is otherwise prohibited by SMCRA.
ARRI was established to promote the use of the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) in reclaiming mine lands that are to be returned to forests after mining. The FRA provides a process for reclamation that allows for superior tree survival and growth rates. The SFPB actively participates in ARRI by providing leadership to the ARRI Core Team, aliaison with the ARRI Science Team and foresters who use their expertise throughout the region to assist stakeholders who want to know more about implementing the FRA. The SFPB also maintains the ARRI web site and works with Core Team members throughout the region in promoting the initiative.
The SFPB coordinates the experimental practices program for the region. When experimental practices applications are made to a State Regulatory Authority (SRA), the SFPB works with them to ensure that the requested practices are at least as, or more, environmentally protective as the Federal regulations and that the practices will not reduce the Federal regulations’ protections regarding public health and safety. After receiving the SRA’s findings regarding the experimental practices application, the SFPB completes the documents necessary for the Regional Director’s use in deciding whether to concur with those findings.
The SFPB develops Federal regulations regarding the Tennessee program and other program areas as requested.