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Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20284
Nos. No. 81-2134, 550 F. Supp. 979/18 ERC 1817/(D.D.C., 09/30/1982) Judgment for plaintiffs

The court holds that the Secretary of the Interior has a mandatory duty under §518 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) to impose civil penalties on surface coal mine operators who fail to abate violations and are issued cessation orders under §521(a)(3). First, the court rules that the general venue statute, not §520(c)(1) of SMCRA, governs venue in the instant action. As a result, venue is proper in the District of Columbia. Since plaintiffs are challenging an allegedly nationwide policy made in Washington, it would be impractical to require them to refile the action in the district where the mining operations are located. Next, the court finds that the language of §§518(a) and 518(h) suggests that the Secretary has a mandatory duty to assess civil penalties following issuance of a §521(a)(3) "failure-to-abate" cessation order. Finally, the court holds that the Secretary has a mandatory duty to take the measures provided in the regulations enforcing §518 civil penalties.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Brent Rushforth
Dow, Lohnes & Albertson
1225 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20036
(202) 862-8015

L. Thomas Galloway
Galloway & Greenberg
1725 I St. NW, Suite 601, Washington DC 20006
(202) 833-9084

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