Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Clark
Citation: 14 ELR 20205
No. No. 83-1224, 725 F.2d 1434/20 ERC 1315/(D.C. Cir., 01/20/1984) Rev'd
In a citizen suit against the Secretary of the Interior for his failure to assess penalties and take enforcement actions against mine operators known to be in violation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), the court holds that the special venue provision of § 520(c)(1) applies and venue is improper in the District of Columbia. Section 520(c)(1) requires citizen suits alleging a violation of SMCRA to be brought in the judicial district where the mining operation complained of is located. The court holds that the citizens' claim that the Secretary failed to assess penalties and take enforcement actions alleges that the Secretary has violated the Act; therefore, the venue provision applies. The court rejects the argument that SMCRA does not restrict venue if the action is against the Secretary, in contrast to actions against mine operators, or if the action is based both on the citizen suit and other sections of the Act.It further rules that the venue limitation applies even though the action challenges a nationwide policy affecting over 700 mining operations. As none of the mining operations are in the District of Columbia, the court reverses the district court decision. It further holds that improper venue is not harmless error in this case because site-specific issues are potentially relevant and the Secretary may have suffered prejudice by litigating in the District of Columbia.
Counsel are listed at 14 ELR 20199.
Before TAMM and WILKEY, Circuit Judges, and MacKINNON, Senior Circuit Judge.