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Public Lands Inst., Inc. v. Andrus

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20238
Nos. Nos. 79-3329, 80-0555, 497 F. Supp. 482/15 ERC 1049/(D.D.C., 09/19/1980)

The court rules that the Secretary of the Interior's decision to postpone operator compliance with he permanent program for regulation of surface coal mining operations on federal lands does not violate the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). On March 13, 1979, the Secretary promulgated the permanent program for regulation of surface coal mining, which included regulations for mining on federal lands. On December 31, 1979, the Secretary promulgated regulations that postponed operator compliance with the permanent program in each state until the Office of Surface Mining approved a state program or implemented a federal program for the state. Meanwhile, the requirements of SMCRA's interim program were to remain in effect. Although §523(a) of SMCRA requires implementation of a federal program no later than one year after the date of enactment, the court rules that the Secretary's action did not violate SMCRA. Section 523(a) is inconsistent with the Act's other requirements that the federal program include the approved state program and that the interim program is to remain in effect until approval of the state program. The Secretary's action merely reconciles these statutory inconsistencies. Ruling that the Secretary's action is neither arbitrary nor capricious, the court holds that the early implementation of a federal program would have interfered with congressional intent to place primary responsibility for regulation with the state. Further, the action is appropriate to accommodate (1) local conditions through incorporation of state programs into the federal program and (2) state/federal cooperative agreements for interim regulation of surface coal mining operations.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
David T. Austern
Goldfarb, Singer & Austern
918 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 466-3030

Robert E. Yuhnke
59 E. Van Buren St., Suite 1600, Chicago IL 60605
(312) 871-5575

Counsel for Defendants
Alfred T. Ghiorzi
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2738