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United States v. Hill

Citation: 12 ELR 20662
No. No. Civ-1-81-50, 533 F. Supp. 810/(E.D. Tenn., 01/12/1982)

The court rules that certain enforcement provisions of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) do not violate the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Following defendants' failure to comply with both a final order assessing a civil penalty of $3,300 and a cessation order issued for nine violations of SMCRA, the government commenced this suit to recover civil penalties. The court rejects defendants' equal protection argument, finding a rational basis for SMCRA's regulation of surface coal mining operations while not regulating other types of mining. The court also rules that the SMCRA provision making prepayment of penalties as a prerequisite to a hearing for violations, coupled with an automatic waiver of all legal rights for failure to forward prepayment, did not deprive defendants of the right to procedural due process since the statute provides sufficient procedures for administrative review prior to assessment of the penalties. The court also rules that the government's cessation order did not violate the takings provision of the Fifth Amendment. Not only did defendants fail to attempt any administrative resolution but the order only required a temporary cessation of mining operations.

Counsel for Plaintiff
John H. Cary, U.S. Attorney; John C. Cook
Federal Bldg., 900 Georgia Ave., Chattanooga TN 37402
(615) 266-0121

Counsel for Defendants
Philip A. Condra, J. Curtis Smith
Greer, Smith & Condra
Rankin & Cherry Sts., Dunlap TN 37327
(615) 949-3621

Roger Thompson
Schwartz & Thompson
Suite 500, Hamilton Bldg., Knoxville TN 37902
(615) 522-8317