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National Mining Ass'n v. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20738
Nos. No. 96-5274, 251 F.3d 1007/(D.C. Cir., 06/08/2001)

The court dismisses a mining association's action challenging U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) regulations concerning the use of a computerized database programmed to identify links between surface mining permit violators and applicants, individuals, and corporations. The association argued that the regulations violated due process, were unconstitutionally vague, and violated state primacy. The association also argued that the regulations exceeded DOI's statutory authority because they require applicants to submit a list of all outstanding violation notices received prior to the application date by any surface mining operation that is deemed to be owned or controlled by the applicant, regardless of the date of the violation. The court first holds that the association's due process and unconstitutionally vague challenges are moot because DOI has since issued new regulations. The court next holds that although the association's claim that the regulations exceed DOI's statutory authority was not rendered moot by the new regulations, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act's three-year cutoff date for notice of violations applies only to violations by the applicant itself; it does not place any time limit on the other information the regulations require. The court then holds that the association's state primacy challenge is moot by virtue of the new rules. Last, the court holds that the regulations do not unlawfully place the burden of persuasion on those challenging the validity of a decision to rescind a permit as improvidently granted or to those challenging decisions regarding an ownership or control link in the computerized database.

Counsel for Appellant
Thomas C. Means
Crowell & Moring
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 624-2500

Counsel for Appellees
Kathryn E. Kovacs
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Randolph, J. Before Ginsburg and Rogers, JJ.