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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Lujan

ELR Citation: 22 ELR 20317
Nos. Nos. 90-5352 et al., 950 F.2d 765/34 ERC 2043/(D.C. Cir., 12/10/1991) Rev'd in part, aff'd in part

The court upholds Department of the Interior (DOI) regulations allowing state agencies that administer federally approved programs under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) to terminate their jurisdiction over reclaimed sites of completed surface mining and reclamation operations on the release of the performance bond posted by the site operators. The court finds that SMCRA §521, the Act's enforcement provision, is silent on this issue and that Congress contemplated enforcement actions only during mining and reclamation operations. The court holds that SMCRA §520, the Act's citizen suit provision, is inapplicable. The court further holds that DOI's regulations are not arbitrary or capricious, because the confusion engendered by DOI's prior policy necessitated the instant rulemaking and the new regulations clearly speak to the concerns voiced by the environmental organization challenging them. The court next holds that the regulations are consistent with the goals of the Act and a reasonable interpretation of it, since they strike a reasonable balance between the Act's competing interests of protecting the environment and ensuring an adequate supply of coal to meet the nation's energy requirements. Further, the factors supporting the concept of terminating jurisdiction buttress DOI's decision to use bond release as the point at which termination occurs. Finally, the court declines to vacate the portion of the district court's opinion remanding DOI regulations on abandoned site inspection to the agency for withdrawal or revision. DOI has indicated that it wishes to promulgate a new regulation, and the district court's decision allows this.

[The district court's opinion is published at 21 ELR 20125.]

Counsel for Appellants
Dirk D. Snel, Alfred T. Ghiorzi, Edward J. Shawaker
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellees
L. Thomas Galloway
Galloway & Greenberg
1835 K St. NW, Ste. 801, Washington DC 20006
(202) 833-9084

Glenn P. Sugameli
National Wildlife Federation
1400 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 797-6800

Before: WALD, D.H. GINSBURG, and RANDOLPH, Circuit Judges.