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Granite Rock Co. v. California Coastal Comm'n

Citation: 14 ELR 20911
No. No. C-83-5137-WWS, 590 F. Supp. 1361/22 ERC 1399/(N.D. Cal., 05/21/1984)

The court holds that federal land in Los Padres National Forest on which plaintiff owns a perfected mining claim pursuant to the Mining Act is not excluded from the coastal zone under Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) § 304(1), and the requirement in California's coastal management program that plaintiff obtain a state permit is not preempted by the Mining Act or by Forest Service regulations. After summarizing the statutes and regulations at issue, the court analyzes the language in CZMA § 304(1) excluding two categories of land from the coastal zone. The court holds that the first category, land that is by law subject solely to the discretion of the federal government, cannot include the land at issue, because that land is subject to a perfected mining claim, which gives plaintiff considerable control. This conclusion is supported by explicit reservation of claimants' mining rights in the Mining Act regulations and in the Surface Resources and Multiple Use Act. The second category of excluded land under § 304(1), land held in trust by the federal government, also does not encompass the subject land, because exclusion refers only to Indian lands. Even if the language of § 304(1) is to be ambiguous, legislative history demonstrates congressional intent to leave private activity not subject to ultimate federal control subject to direct state regulation.

The court next holds that although the CZMA does not convert the California Coastal Act into federal law, the permit requirement is not preempted by federal law. The court rejects three arguments for preemption. The first is that states generally may not regulate activities conducted on federal land, but this presumption applies only to federal agencies and activity on enclaves of federal dominion, neither of which apply here. Second, the Mining Act does not preempt state law because the permit requirement does not block plaintiff's exercise of its rights under the Mining Act, but merely imposes protective standards. Third, Forest Service regulations requiring federal approval of mining plans of operations do not preempt the state permit requirement, because they neither occupy the field of mining regulation on federal forest land, nor cause an irreconcilable conflict between compliance with the federal and state standards. Finally, the court notes that the consistency issue raised by defendant under CZMA § 307(c)(3)(A) was lost due to defendant's failure to give timely notice to the Forest Service of its objection to plaintiff's plan of operations, thereby waiving the right to consistency review.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Barbara R. Banke
Goldstein, Barceloux & Goldstein
33rd Floor, Hartford Bldg., 650 California St., San Francisco CA 94108
(415) 433-3000

Counsel for Defendant
Linus S. Masouredis, Deputy Attorney General
Department of Justice
Room 6000, 350 McAllister St., San Francisco CA 94102
(415) 557-2544