Coal Policy–Need It Be the West Against the Rest?

This Article will analyze the legal issues involved in this “West against the rest” conflict. While numerous areas of disagreement exist within the larger picture of Western-federal relations, the Article will focus on two specific issues of present concern. First, the Article will explore the role of the states under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. This section includes an analysis of recent litigation involving regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior relating to the establishment of state mining programs. Second, the Article will address the imposition of state severance taxes on coal, with particular emphasis on the Montana tax sustained recently by the Supreme Court. The Article’s essential premise is that sound policy should balance the substantial federal interest in development of Western energy sources against state and local concerns regarding the social, economic, and environmental impacts of this development.