One of the state's most abundant energy resources is a form of soft coal called lignite. Many lignite deposits lie close to the surface, easily reached with modern mining technology.
In 1975, the Texas Legislature called on the Railroad Commission to regulate
surface mining for coal, uranium, and iron ore gravel. The Commission also
conducts a program for reclaiming lands that were mined and abandoned before
1975. Texas is the largest consumer of coal in the United States and is the fifth largest coal-producing state (based on 2004 production records).
The Commission's regulatory program was the first in the nation to be certified by the federal Office of Surface Mining. Mining companies must have a Commission permit and post a bond for each mining site they operate in the state. The division studies proposed mining sites to see if the mine will impact the environment
Studies also determine what procedures should be used in reclaiming the land
after mining is finished. Division field personnel make regular visits to mine
sites, checking for compliance with Commission rules. The Commission also
administers a federal program to reclaim abandoned mine sites that predate federal surface mining laws.