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Indiana v. Andrus

Citation: 10 ELR 20613
No. Nos. IP 78-500-C, -501-C, 501 F. Supp. 452/14 ERC 1769/(S.D. Ind., 06/10/1980)

The court declares unconstitutional, and enjoins enforcement of, numerous provisions of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). Plaintiffs challenged portions of Title V of the SMCRA regarding mining on prime farmlands, restoration to approximate original contour, topsoiling requirements, designation of areas unsuitable for surface mining, and post-mining land uses. The court first finds that the prime farmland provisions are contrary to the Commerce Clause because surface coal mining on prime farmland, as distinguished from other types of land, has only a trivial impact on interstate commerce. Furthermore, such provisions bear little relation to the legitimate goal of controlling air and water pollution and, therefore, are not a reasonable means of removing a substantial adverse effect on interstate commerce. Because other provisions of the SMCRA are aimed at controlling air and water pollution, the provisions concerning the approximate contour restoration, topsoiling, and unsuitable areas are not aimed at alleviating air or water pollution and thus exceed congressional authority under the Commerce Clause. Because the post-mining uses provisions are unrelated to removing any substantial adverse effect on interstate commerce, they too are declared unconstitutional. The court also invalidates the same provisions on Tenth Amendment grounds. The SMCRA and the regulations implementing it establish a federal land use control system that usurps and displaces a traditional and integral state function. The court next finds that the prime farmland and contour provisions deprive plaintiffs of substantive due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The lack of variance procedures in the prime farmland provision and limitation on variances in the contour regulations unjustifiably discriminate against plaintiffs, particularly because there are no steep slopes or mountaintops in Indiana. Further, the provisions are irrational, arbitrary, and capricious to the extent they are not reasonably necessary to achieve a particular post-mining use. Plaintiffs next argued that provisions (1) requiring the restoration of mined prime farmland to equivalent levels of yield under intensive management and (2) dealing with areas unsuitable for surface mining violate the Fifth Amendment as a taking without just compensation. The court agrees, concluding, first, that it is technologically impossible to reclaim prime farmland to reach such levels of productivity and, second, that prohibiting coal removal in certain areas destroys the mineral interest and the owner's rights. Finally, consistent with other district courts that have ruled on the matter, the court holds that the provision of the SMCRA requiring prepayment of a proposed penalty as a condition precedent to contesting either the fact of the violation or the amount of the proposed penalty violates the procedural due process requirement of the Fifth Amendment.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Theodore Senback, Attorney General
219 State House, Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 232-6201

G. Daniel Kelley
Ice, Miller, Donadio & Ryan
111 Monument Circle, 10th flr., Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 635-1213

Counsel for Defendants
Virginia Dill McCarty, U.S. Attorney; Harold Bickam, Ass't U.S. Attorney
Rm. 274, Federal Bldg. & U.S. Cthse., 46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis IN 46204
(317) 269-6333

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