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Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Clark

Citation: 14 ELR 20199
No. No. 83-1008, 725 F.2d 1422/20 ERC 1305/(D.C. Cir., 01/20/1984)

In a citizen suit alleging that the Secretary of the Interior both failed to enforce the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) against operators improperly claiming the two-acre exemption and erred procedurally in suspending and withdrawing the two-acre rule, the court holds that improper venue bars appellants' first claim and mootness bars the second.

First the court holds that the restriction in SMCRA § 530(c)(1), limiting venue in actions alleging violations of the Act to the judicial district in which the alleged improper mining operation is located, applies to citizen suits against the Secretary for failure to take mandatory actions. The court holds that the provision should not be read narrowly to apply only to suits against mine operators but rather to all alleged violations of SMCRA. The plain meaning of the statute and the contextual meaning of the venue provision support this interpretation. The court further rules that the venue restriction applies even in cases in which jurisdiction is derived under provisions of SMCRA other than the citizen suit provision. The plain statutory language and the deletion of proposed language which would have limited the venue restriction to the citizen suit section indicate a congressional intent to apply the venue restriction to all actions. The savings clause in § 520(e) does not mandate a narrower reading of the venue provision in actions against the Secretary for failure to perform nondiscretionary duties. The court also holds that pendent venue is not applicable. Appellants' procedural challenge to the two-acre rule's withdrawal does not involve proofs similar to appellants' enforcement claim. Thus one action cannot serve as a basis for venue for the other. Finally, the court rules that appellants' contention that the Secretary improperly suspended and withdrew the two-acre regulation is moot. The Secretary has now properly promulgated a new rule which gave appellants the notice and opportunity for comment that they were deprived of by the withdrawal action. The court holds that retroactive reinstatement of the withdrawn rule would not provide appellants with additional relief because reinstatement would not necessarily cure alleged widespread abuses of the Act.

[A related case is published at 14 ELR 20205 — Ed.]

Counsel for Appellants
Joseph A. Yablonski, Daniel B. Edelman
Yablonski, Both & Edelman
Suite 800, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-9060

L. Thomas Galloway
Center for Law & Social Policy, 1751 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 872-0670

Counsel for Appellees
Roger J. Marzulla, Robert L. Klarquist, Alfred T. Ghiorzi, Jennele M. Morris
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2716

Harold P. Quinn Jr.
Office of the Solicitor
Department of the Interior, Washington DC 20240
(202) 343-4671

Before TAMM and WILKEY, Circuit Judges, and MACKINNON, Senior Circuit Judge.