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Andrus v. P-Burg Coal Co.

Citation: 10 ELR 20938
No. No. TH79-163-C, 495 F. Supp. 82/14 ERC 1847/(S.D. Ind., 06/05/1980)

The court rules that warrantless inspections of surface mining operations by the Department of the Interior as authorized by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) are constitutional. Applying reasoning used in construing the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, the court first determines that the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate defendant's mining operation under the SMCRA. Although the defendant's coal may never enter interstate commerce, its mining operation affects interstate commerce and thus is subject to federal regulation under the SMCRA under these analyses. First, under the "ripple effect" analysis, if defendant is exempt from the Act's environmental controls, it may compete unfairly with interstate suppliers who must comply with the SMCRA. Second, under the "cumulative effect" rationale, the large amount of coal supplied by intrastate commerce and the cumulative environmental destruction caused by surface mining have significant impacts on interstate commerce. Finally, the pollution which the Act is designed to prevent ignores state lines and thus affects interstate commerce. The court also finds that the Department of the Interior need not obtain a warrant before inspecting a surface mining operation as authorized by the Act because surface mining falls within the pervasively regulated business exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Environmental controls are properly viewed as a continuation of historic federal regulation of mining operations. In addition, the SMCRA contains specific guidelines for inspection of mining operations. In addition, the SMCRA contains specific guidelines for inspection and requires the government to seek injunctive relief upon refusal to allow inspections, which provide protection for defendant's privacy interest. The court thus grants the government's request for a preliminary and permanent injunction to enjoin defendant from refusing to allow inspections.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Virginia Dill McCarty, U.S. Attorney; Harold R. Bickham, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Federal Bldg. & U.S. Cthse., 46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 269-6333

Counsel for Defendant
Harold E. Hutson
1322 Circle Tower, 5 E. Market St., Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 631-1838