|(a) Experimental practices provide a variance from the environmental protection performance standards of the Act and Subchapter K of this chapter (relating to Permanent Program Performance Standards) for experimental or research purposes, or to allow an alternative postmining land use. They may be undertaken if they are approved by the Commission and the Director and if they are incorporated in a permit revision issued in accordance with the requirements of Subchapter G of this chapter (relating to Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Operations Permits and Coal Exploration Procedures Systems). (b) No person shall engage in or maintain any experimental practice, unless that practice is first approved in a permit by the Commission and the Director. (c) Each person who desires to conduct an experimental practice shall submit a permit application which contains descriptions, maps, plans, and data which show: (1) the
nature of the experimental practice, including a description of the performance standards for which variances are requested, the duration of the experimental practice, and any special monitoring which will be conducted; (2) how use of the experimental practice encourages advances in mining and reclamation technology or, allows a postmining land use for industrial, commercial, residential, or public use (including recreational facilities) on an experimental basis; (3) that the mining and reclamation operations proposed for using an experimental practice are not larger or more numerous than necessary to determine the effectiveness and economic feasibility of the experimental practice; (4) that the experimental practice: (A) is potentially more or at least as environmentally protective during and after the proposed mining and reclamation operations, as those required under Subchapter K of this chapter
(relating to Permanent Program Performance Standards); and (B) will not reduce the protection afforded public health and safety below that provided by the requirements of Subchapter K of this chapter (relating to Permanent Program Performance Standards); and (5) that the applicant will conduct monitoring of the effects of the experimental practice. The monitoring program shall ensure the collection, analysis, and reporting of reliable data that are sufficient to enable the Commission and the Director to: (A) evaluate the effectiveness of the experimental practice; and (B) identify, at the earliest possible time, potential risk to the environment and public health and safety which may be caused by the experimental practice during and after mining. (d) Each application shall set forth the environmental protection performance standards of Subchapter K of this chapter (relating to Permanent
Program Performance Standards) which will be implemented, in the event the objective of the experimental practice is a failure. (e) All experimental practices for which variances are sought shall be specifically identified through newspaper advertisements by the applicant and the written notifications by the Commission required under §12.207 of this title (relating to Public Notices of Filing of Permit Applications). (f) No permit authorizing an experimental practice shall be issued, unless the Commission first finds, in writing, upon the basis of both a complete application filed in accordance with the requirements of this section and the comments of the Director, that: (1) the experimental practice meets all of the requirements of subsection (c)(2)-(5) of this section; (2) the experimental practice is based on a clearly defined set of objectives which can reasonably be expected to be achieved;
(3) the experimental practice has been specifically approved, in writing, by the Director, based on his or her findings that all of the requirements of subsection (c)(1)-(5) of this section will be met; and (4) the permit contains conditions which specifically: (A) limit the experimental practice authorized to that granted by the Commission and the Director. (B) impose enforceable alternative environmental protection requirements; and (C) require the person to conduct the periodic monitoring, recording and reporting program set forth in the application, with such additional requirements as the Commission or the Director may require. (g) Experimental practices granting variances from the special environmental protection performance standards of this chapter (relating to Coal Mining Regulations) and of the Act applicable to prime farmland shall be approved only after
consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. (h) Each experimental practice shall be reviewed by the Commission as set forth in the approved permit, but no less frequently than every 2 1/2 years. After review, the Commission may require such reasonable modifications of the experimental practice necessary to ensure that the operations involved are conducted to fully protect the environment and the public health and safety. Copies of the decision of the Commission shall be sent to the permittee and shall be subject to administrative and judicial review. (i) Revisions or modifications to an experimental practice shall be processed in accordance with the requirements of this chapter (relating to Coal Mining Regulations) and approved by the Commission. Any revisions which propose significant alterations in the experimental practice shall, at a minimum, be subject to the notice, hearing, and public
participation requirements of this chapter (relating to Coal Mining Regulations) and concurrence by the Director. Revisions that do not propose significant alterations in the experimental practice shall not require concurrence by the Director.