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Wyatt v. United States

Citation: 32 ELR 20345
No. Nos. 99-5054, -5059, 271 F.3d 1090/(Fed. Cir., 11/19/2001)

The court reverses a lower court decision finding the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) liable for the permanent taking of a mining company's leasehold property. The mining company applied to the OSM for a permit and was told that its application was administratively incomplete. After receiving two technical deficiency letters (TDLs) from the OSM, the mining company applied for financial assistance in complying with the request for additional information through the OSM's small operator assistance program (SOAP). The OSM denied the permit application before it ruled on the SOAP request. The mining company appealed the ruling to an administrative law judge who, after a lengthy review process, ordered the parties to work together in providing the needed information. The OSM then sent a third TDL, but the mining company chose not to respond andinstead applied again for SOAP funds. During this time, the mining company's deadline for extending its lease came and went without the company exercising its option, thus, the lease expired on February 28, 1991. After issuing another TDL and a letter encouraging response to the TDL, the OSM denied the mining company's permit application, and the company filed suit.

The court first holds that the lower court incorrectly found that the mining company had a takings claim. By voluntarily choosing not to renew its leasehold interest, the mining company had no valid property interest as of February 28, 1991, from which it could assert a takings claim. Additionally, a taking did not occur prior to February 28, 1991, contrary to the mining company's argument that extraordinary delay by the government in processing its permit application constituted a taking. Any delay in processing the permit was not sufficiently extraordinary to constitute a taking. Deference must be given to the OSM concerning the extent of information it required. Further, much of the delay through 1991 was caused by the mining company's failure to respond to the OSM's requests for information, and the lower court's finding of bad faith on the part of the OSM is inadequately supported.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Raymond D. Battocchi
Gabeler, Battocchi & Griggs
1320 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean VA 22101
(703) 790-5244

Counsel for Defendant
Jeffrey C. Dobbins
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Gajarsa, J. Before Newman and Bryson, JJ.