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Doochin v. Rackley

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20163
Nos. No. 80-22-1, 610 S.W.2d 715/(Tenn., 01/12/1981)

The court upholds the constitutionality of a provision of the Tennessee Surface Mining Law of 1977 requiring a permit applicant to submit evidence of its legal right to strip mine. Appellants, who had been conveyed the mineral interest to a specific property, applied to the Tennessee Department of Conservation for a strip mining permit but refused to submit documents expressly allowing strip mining on the tract.The court rules that since strip mining was unknown at the time of severance of the mineral and surface estates, strip mining is presumed not to have been intended by the contracting parties as a permissible mineral extraction technique. Since appellants were never conveyed the legal right to strip mine, the court holds that the Act did not unconstitutionally deprive them of property without due process. The statute merely codified the common-law rule that the parties' intent governs the construction of contracts. Further, the court concludes that the legislative classification, strip mining of coal, does not deny equal protection since it is reasonably related to the legitimate public interest of protecting the environment and the rights of surface owners.

Counsel for Appellants
Val Sanford, Joel M. Leeman
Gullett, Sanford & Robinson
Third Floor, Home Federal Bldg., 230 4th Ave. N., Nashville TN 37219
(615) 244-4994

Counsel for Appellees
Dean Hill Rivkin
University of Tennessee Legal Clinic
1505 W. Cumberland Ave., Knoxville TN 37916
(615) 974-2331

Claudius C. Smith, Ass't Attorney General
450 James Robertson Pkwy., Nashville TN 37219
(615) 741-1376

George M. Derryberry
Miller & Martin
Volunteer State Life Bldg., Chattanooga TN 37402
(615) 756-6600