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United States v. Beaird Coal Co.

Citation: 17 ELR 21283
No. No. 86-7402, 825 F.2d 1471/26 ERC 1517/(11th Cir., 08/06/1987)

The court rules that the exemption from reclamation fees under Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) § 701(28)(A) for coal extracted incidentally to the mining of other minerals must be calculated independently for each separate mining site. Defendant mine operators sought to aggregate the output of two sites, three miles apart, for purposes of asserting the application of the exemption that provides that a mining operation may avoid reclamation fees if the coal it produces is less than 16 2/3 percent of the total mineral tonnage extracted. The court rejects the application of the common watershed and common ownership methods of identifying a single mining operation that are used to determine the applicability of SMCRA's two-acre exemption. These methods serve to narrow the two-acre exemption, while their application to the 16 2/3 percent exemption would have a broadening effect. The court rules that in the absence of any evidence of congressional intent, the mine-by-mine approach is the best and most logical means of effectuating the broad remedial purposes of SMCRA.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
Frank W. Donaldson, U.S. Attorney; Richard E. O'Neal, Ass't U.S. Attorney
200 Federal Bldg., 1800 Fifth Ave. N., Birmingham AL 35203
(205) 254-1785

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Phillip A. Laird
Laird & Wiley
Suite C, 1816 Bankhead Byars Bldg., P.O. Box 498, Jasper AL 35502-0498
(205) 221-5601

Before TJOFLAT and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and HENDERSON, Senior Circuit Judge.