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United States v. Thompson Bros. Coal Co.

Citation: 12 ELR 20665
No. No. 81-945, 532 F. Supp. 979/17 ERC 1893/(W.D. Pa., 02/26/1982)

The court holds that the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act's (SMCRA's) requirement for payment of an administratively assessed penalty prior to a hearing is constitutional. The requirement is not a denial of due process since the Act affords additional remedies that satisfy the criteria of reasonableness and due process. Section 518 allows the coal operator an opportunity to obtain a full hearing after issuance of a notice of violation but before assessment of a penalty. It also permits the operator to submit material bearing on the decision to assess a penalty before it is assessed, and subsequently to request a conference to seek reduction of the penalty. Noting that the "rational relationship" test is applicable in equal protection challenges to statutes like SMCRA, the court rejects as specious defendant's claim that the statute discriminates against those who cannot afford the assessed penalty and observes that defendant probably lcaks standing to raise this claim since it does not allege that it is unable to pay the penalty. Finally, the court holds that a policy statement by the Office of Surface Mining to the effect that it would have to enforce the penalty provision even if that caused marginal operators to shut down does not bar collection of the penalty and orders defendant to pay the full penalty assessed.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Alan Johnson, U.S. Attorney; Joel B. Strauss
633 U.S.P.O. & Cthse., 7th Ave. & Grant St., Pittsburgh PA 15219
(412) 644-3500

Mimi Methvin
W. Va. District, Department of the Interior
603 Morris St., Charlestown WV 25301
(304) 342-8125

Counsel for Defendant
Stephen C. Braverman
Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman
2600 The Fidelity Bldg., Philadelphia PA 19109
(215) 875-7000