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County of Nelson v. Kern

ELR Citation: 40 ELR 20029
Nos. No. F059293, (Cal. App. 5th Dist. , 11/19/2010)

A California appellate court reversed a lower court decision denying a petition challenging the adequacy of a county's environmental analysis of a proposed surface mining operation on a 40-acre site in the foothills of the Southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. The county limited its environmental review to the reclamation plan only and did not consider or analyze the potential impacts of the proposed mining operations because the mining would take place on federally owned land. The county believed that the BLM was considered to be the sole permitting agency for purposes of mining operations and responsible to perform its own environmental review under NEPA. But the county's role as lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in conjunction with its responsibilities under California's Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), required it to evaluate the environmental effects of the whole mining project. On remand, the county must set aside its mitigated negative declaration concerning the reclamation plan as well as its approval of the conditional use permit for the reclamation plan, must comply with SMARA by requiring a permit for the proposed surface mining operations as well as the approval of a reclamation plan and any other requirements of SMARA, and must undertake environmental review of the entire project, including mining operations, as required by CEQA.