Alaska Statutes.
Title 27. Mining
Chapter 21. Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act
Section 260. Areas Unsuitable For Surface Coal Mining.
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AS 27.21.260. Areas Unsuitable For Surface Coal Mining.

(a) The commissioner shall use competent and scientifically sound data and information in order to make objective decisions as to which areas of land are unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal operations. The decisions shall

(1) reflect the planning activities of federal, state, and municipal governments; and

(2) use a data base and inventory system that will permit the evaluation of areas of the state to support and permit reclamation of surface coal mining operations.

(b) A person or municipality having an interest that is or may be adversely affected may file a petition with the commissioner to designate an area as unsuitable for mining or to terminate a designation under this section. The petition must contain allegations of facts with supporting evidence that would tend to establish the allegations. Within three to seven months after receipt of a petition, the commissioner shall hold a public hearing in the locality of the area, under regulations adopted by the commissioner. The commissioner may extend the time within which a hearing must be held if an extension is required to include a field season. After the filing of a petition and before the hearing, other persons may intervene by filing allegations of fact with supporting evidence. Within 60 days after the hearing, the commissioner shall issue and furnish to the petitioner and intervenors a written decision regarding the petition and the reasons for the commissioner's decision. The commissioner may cancel the hearing if the parties all agree to the cancellation.

(c) Upon receipt of a petition under (b) of this section, the commissioner

(1) shall designate an area as unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal mining operations if the commissioner determines that reclamation in accordance with this chapter and regulations adopted under it is not technologically feasible in the area;

(2) may designate an area as unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal mining operations if the commissioner determines that the operations in the area will

(A) be incompatible with existing state or local land use programs;

(B) affect fragile or historic land in which the operations could result in significant damage to important historic, cultural, scientific, and aesthetic values and natural systems;

(C) affect aquifer recharge areas or other renewable resource land in which the operations could result in a substantial loss or reduction of long-range productivity of water supply or food or fiber products; or

(D) affect areas subject to frequent flooding and areas of unstable geology, or other natural hazard land in which the operations could substantially endanger life and property

(d) Subject to valid existing rights, the commissioner may not permit surface coal mining operations except those that existed on August 3, 1977,

(1) on any land within the boundaries of a unit of the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge Systems, the National System of Trails, the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including study rivers designated under section 5(a) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and National Recreation Areas designated by Act of Congress;

(2) that will adversely affect a publicly owned park or a place included in the National Register of Historic Sites unless approved jointly by the commissioner and the federal, state, or local agency that has jurisdiction over the park or the historic site;

(3) within 100 feet of the outside right-of-way line of any public road, except where mine access roads or haulage roads join the right-of-way line, and except that the commissioner may permit roads to be relocated or the area affected to lie within 100 feet of a road, if after public notice and opportunity for public hearing in the locality, a written finding is made that the interests of the public and the landowners affected by it will be protected; or

(4) within 300 feet from any occupied dwelling, unless waived by the owner of the dwelling, or within 300 feet of a public building, school, church, community, or institutional building, public park, or within 100 feet of a cemetery.

(e) Before designating an area as unsuitable under this section, the commissioner shall prepare a detailed statement of the potential coal resources of the area, the demand for coal resources, and the impact of the designation on the environment, the economy, and the supply of coal.

(f) Determinations of unsuitability of land for surface coal mining must consider present and future land use planning and regulation processes at the federal, state, and local levels.

(g) This section does not apply to land on which a surface coal mining operation was conducted on or before August 3, 1977, or under a permit issued under this chapter before a determination of unsuitability. This section does not apply to an area if a person had made substantial legal or financial commitments for an operation or proposed operation in that area before January 4, 1977.

(h) A designation of unsuitability under this section does not prevent coal exploration of any designated area.

(i) The commissioner shall adopt regulations to implement this section.


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