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National Mining Ass'n v. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20499
Nos. 95-5434 et al., 105 F.3d 691/(D.C. Cir., 01/31/1997)

The D.C. Circuit strikes down the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSM's) ownership-and-control, permit-information, and permit-rescission rules under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). The ownership-and-control rule conflicts with the plain meaning of SMCRA §510(c), which states that when any surface coal-mining operation owned or controlled by the applicant is currently in violation of SMCRA, a mining permit shall not be issued. The ownership-and-control rule, however, sweeps much more broadly, blocking permits if an operation owned or controlled by either the applicant or by any person who owns or controls the applicant is currently in violation of SMCRA. The court refuses to defer to OSM's interpretation of SMCRA even though Congress did not specifically preclude OSM from reaching the applicant's owner and those that the applicant's owner owns or controls. The court holds that certain appropriations acts regarding reclamation grants to states do not override the plain meaning of §510(c), because the acts state that permits should be withheld in accordance with §510(c), and §510(c) is clear. The court next holds that because the permit-information and permit-rescission rules are founded on the ownership-and-control rule, they too are unlawful. The permit-information rule required permit applicants to provide information necessary to determine compliance with the ownership-and-control rule, and the permit-rescission rule established procedures for revoking permits that violate the ownership-and-control rule.

Counsel for Appellant
J. Michael Klise
Crowell & Moring
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 624-2629

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

Before: EDWARDS, Chief Judge, HENDERSON and RANDOLPH, Circuit Judges.