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Blackhawk Mining Co. v. Department of the Interior

Citation: 12 ELR 20781
No. No. 79-136, 19 ERC 2048/(E.D. Ky., 02/11/1982)

The courtupholds the constitutionality of §518(c) of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which requires an alleged violator to prepay the proposed civil penalty into escrow prior to obtaining an evidentiary hearing. Initially the court rejects plaintiff's contention that it is entitled to a hearing under §518(b) of SMCRA. It rules that plaintiff's failure to comply with the prepayment requirements of §518(c) constitutes a waiver of the hearing provided for by §518(b). The court also rules that §518(c) does not deprive the mine operator of the right to procedural due process since the statute provides for sufficient administrative and judicial review prior to final assessment of penalties. Although the prepayment requirement may temporarily deprive plaintiff of its property, the court rules that the degree of potential deprivation is slight. In addition, the procedures available prior to prepayment substantially reduce the risk of erroneous deprivation. Finally, the public's interest in insuring compliance with the environmental requirements of the Act outweigh the harm to plaintiff.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Dan Jack Combs
Combs & Lester
207 Caroline Ave., Pikeville KY 41501
(606) 437-6218

Counsel for Defendants
Louis G. DeFalaise, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1490, Lexington KY 40591
(606) 233-2661