Surface Mining and Reclamation

The Railroad Commission's newest regulatory division, Surface Mining and Reclamation, began operation January 1, 1976, as a result of the "Texas Surface Mining and Reclamation Act" approved by the 64th Texas Legislature in June, 1975. The act regulated mining and reclamation for coal, lignite, and uranium ore mines. This was two years before the Federal government passed a national coal surface mining and reclamation act in 1977. Both laws addressed two issues prominent in the early 1970s: energy and the environment.

Energy was in short supply in the face of increasing demand and rising prices. In October 1973, Saudi Arabia cut off oil shipments to the United States in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. There had also been natural gas shortages in the northeast United States.

Environmental awareness was increasing as a result of the first Earth Day in 1970 with the public expressing concern over the mis-use of critical natural resources -- water, land, and air. A new activism grew and was eventually translated into law.

The 64th Texas Legislature looked back over the history of mining in Texas: bituminous coal, lignite, and cinebar and uranium ore. They saw a need to insure proper management and reclamation to eliminate abandoned mine sites and insure conservation of these resources. They looked to the future and saw an increasing need for reliable energy sources to supplement the State's oil and gas supplies. To insure that the future held orderly recovery of lignite, coal, and uranium ore -- recovery that would protect the land and water of Texas -- and the reclamation of mined sites, the Legislature passed the 1976 Act. Because of the Railroad Commission's long history of regulating the oil and gas industries, the Legislature authorized the Commission to implement the state's surface mining and reclamation program.

Last Updated: 7/20/2015 12:17:55 PM