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United States v. Devil's Hole, Inc.

Citation: 14 ELR 20861
No. No. 84-1046, 747 F.2d 895/21 ERC 1921/(3d Cir., 11/09/1984)

The court rules that defendants, who reclaim anthracite silt from old underground mine processing sites, are surface miners under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and must pay SMCRA reclamation fees. The expert testimony offered at trial supports the trial court's finding that anthracite silt is coal. Under both the Office of Surface Mining's regulations, which are consistent with SMCRA, and Title VII of SMCRA itself, reclaimed coal operations are surface coal mining operations. Although Title IV assesses reclamation fees against "surface coal mines," not "surface coal mining operations," the court rules that Congress intended the two phrases to have the same meaning. This reading levies a tax on environmentally desirable activities such as defendants', but Congress' purposes in Title IV were to raise revenue to remedy past harms and to equalize the tax and regulatory burden on surface- and underground-mined coal, not to encourage better present practices. Finally, the court holds that government's assessment of the coal's value for tax purposes was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.

Counsel for Appellants
K. Robert Conrad, Charles J. Bloom, Ronald H. Levine
Hunt, Kerr, Bloom, Hitchner, O'Brien & Conrad
Drexel Bldg., 15th & Walnut Sts., Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 864-0800

Counsel for Appellee
James G. Sheehan, James J. West, Walter S. Batty Jr.; Edward S. G. Dennis Jr., U.S. Attorney
3310 U.S. Cthse., 601 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 597-2556

Before Hunter and Garth, JJ.