839 F.2d 694 (D.C. Cir. 1988), 85, National Wildlife Federation v. Hodel

Docket Nº:84-5912 to 84- 5926, 85-5001, 85-5002, 85-5132 to
Citation:839 F.2d 694
Party Name:Envtl. NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, et al., Appellants, v. Donald P. HODEL, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Appellees. Nos. 84-5743, 84-5744, 84-5757, 84-5772 to 84-5774, 84-5788,
Case Date:January 29, 1988
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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839 F.2d 694 (D.C. Cir. 1988)

Envtl.

NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, et al., Appellants,

v.

Donald P. HODEL, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Appellees.

Nos. 84-5743, 84-5744, 84-5757, 84-5772 to 84-5774, 84-5788,

84-5912 to 84- 5926, 85-5001, 85-5002, 85-5132 to

85-5137, 85-5748, 85-5905, 85-5951 to

85- 5953 and 85-5961.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

January 29, 1988

Argued Dec. 9, 1986 and Jan. 5, 1987.

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Warner W. Gardner, Washington, D.C., for Peabody Coal Co., John A. Macleod and Thomas C. Means, Washington, D.C., for National Coal Ass'n/American Mining Congress, et al., with whom James R. Bird, Steven P. Quarles, Peter K. Levine and Thomas Lundquist, Washington, D.C., were on the joint brief for appellants in Nos. 84-5772 to 84-5774, 84-5912 to 84-5925, 85-5951 and 85-5952, and for appellees in No. 84-5744. I. Michael Greenberger also entered an appearance for Peabody Coal Co.

L. Thomas Galloway with whom Norman L. Dean, Jr., Thomas J. Fitzgerald and Glenn P. Sugameli, Washington, D.C., were on the brief for National Wildlife Federation,

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et al., appellants in Nos. 84-5743, 84-5744, 85-5001, 85-5002, 85-5748 and 85-5905, and for appellees in Nos. 84-5757, 84-5772 to 84-5774, 84-5788, 85-5132 to 85-5137. Joseph Onek and Peter Huber, Washington, D.C., also entered an appearance for National Wildlife Federation, et al.

Arthur E. Gowran and Alfred T. Ghiorzi, Attys., Dept. of Justice and Stuart A. Sanderson, Atty., Dept. of the Interior, with whom Peter R. Steenland, Jr., and Robert L. Klarquist, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., were on the joint brief for Donald P. Hodel, Secretary of the Interior, et al., appellants in Nos. 84-5757, 85-5953, 85-5736, 85-5737, and for appellees in Nos. 84-5743, 84-5744, 84-5772 to 84-5774, 84-5783, 84-5912 to 84-5926, 85-5001, 85-5002, 85-5132 to 85-5135, 85-5748, 85-5905, 85-5951 and 85-5952. Harold P. Quinn, Atty., Dept. of the Interior, Washington, D.C., also entered an appearance for Donald P. Hodel, Secretary of the Interior, et al.

Thomas H. Altmeyer, Washington, D.C., was on the brief for Mining and Reclamation Council of America, appellants in Nos. 84-5788, 84-5926, 85-5132 to 85-5135, and 85-5961. James T. Hemphill, Washington, D.C., also entered an appearance for Mining and Reclamation Council of America.

Guy L. Nevill, Houston, Tex., entered an appearance for Dow Chemical, USA.

Before WALD, Chief Judge, RUTH BADER GINSBURG and SILBERMAN, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Chief Judge WALD, Circuit Judge RUTH BADER GINSBURG, and Circuit Judge SILBERMAN.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

  1. INTRODUCTION ........................................................ 701

    1. STANDING ............................................................ 703

    1. The History of the Standing Issue in this Case .................. 703

    2. A Brief Overview of Standing Doctrine ........................... 703

    3. NWF's Standing on Particular Issues ............................. 706

  2. Issues where the Secetary has Eliminated Minimum National

    Environmental Standards (Four Issues) .................... 706

  3. Issues where the Challenge to Standing Focuses on the

    Adequacy of Affidavits (Fourteen Issues) ................. 709

    1. Federal Lands ........................................... 711

    2. Off-Site Facilities ..................................... 712

    3. Host Soils .............................................. 713

    4. Prime Farmland Lakes .................................... 713

    5. Support Facilities on Prime Farmland .................... 714

    6. Variances from Original Contours ........................ 714

    7. Submerged Highwalls ..................................... 715

    8. Actual Grazing on Land .................................. 715

    1. Conclusion ...................................................... 716

      III. MERITS .............................................................. 716

    2. Prime Farmland and Pastureland Issues ........................... 716

  4. Revegetation Success Standards for Prime Farmland ........... 716

  5. Revegetation Success Standards for Grazing and Pastureland .. 718

  6. Exemptions from Performance Standards for Prime Farmlands ... 719

    1. Construction of Water Impoundments on Prime Farmland .... 719

    2. Exemption for Prime Farmland Affected by Coal

    Preparation Plants, Support Facilities,

    and Roads ............................................ 722

    1. Bonding to Assure Reclamation of Land Affected by Mine

    Operations ..................................................... 723

  7. Incremental and Phased Bonding .............................. 724

  8. Bonding for Damage Caused by Subsidence of Land Overlying

    Underground Mines ........................................ 726

    1. Regulatory Guidance ............................................. 729

  9. Alluvial Valley Floors ...................................... 729

  10. Mine Waste .................................................. 731

  11. Backfilling and Grading ..................................... 734

    1. Contemporaneous Reclamation ............................. 735

    2. Thin and Thick Overburden ............................... 736

    3. Terraces ................................................ 737

    1. Residual Issues ................................................. 739

  12. Damage Caused by Subsidence of Land Overlying Underground

    Mines .................................................... 739

  13. Reshaping Cut and Fill Slopes (Roads and Underground Mines) . 741

  14. Jurisdiction Over Processing and Support Facilities ......... 742

  15. Alluvial Valley Floors Performance Standards ................ 746

  16. Substantial Legal and Financial Commitment .................. 747

    1. Residual Issues II .............................................. 748

  17. Continually-Created Valid Existing Rights ................... 748

  18. Values Incompatible with Surface Mining ..................... 751

  19. Replacement of Damaged Water Supplies by Operators of

    Underground Mines ...................................................... 753

    1. The Unplain Meaning of Section 717(b) ................... 753

    2. The "Puzzling Contradiction" of Section 508(a)(13)'s

    Permitting Requirements .................................. 754

  20. Exemption from Water Replacement Requirements for Holders of

    Senior Water Rights ...................................... 756

  21. Cumulative Hydrologic Assessment--What is "Anticipated

    Mining"? ................................................ 757

  22. Elimination of Underwater Highwalls ......................... 759

  23. Temporary (but Long-Term) Storage of Top Soil ............... 760

  24. Authority to Grant Variance from AOC Requirements ........... 761

  25. Jurisdiction Over Non-Erosional Aspects of Air Quality ...... 764

  26. Use of Proximity as a Factor in Determining Jurisdiction

    Over Support Facilities .................................. 765

  27. Delegability of Secretary's Authority Over Federal Land

    Mining Permits ........................................... 766

    1. CONCLUSION .......................................................... 768

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    WALD, Chief Judge, GINSBURG, RUTH BADER, Circuit Judge, and SILBERMAN, Circuit Judge:

    I. INTRODUCTION

    The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, Pub.L. No. 95-87, 91 Stat. 445 (codified as amended at 30 U.S.C. Secs. 1201 et seq.) ("the Surface Mining Act," "the Act," or "SMCRA"), emerged from prolonged deliberations that reach back to hearings and the introduction of legislation in the 90th Congress. 1 The Act, as finally passed by the 95th Congress, established "a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations." SMCRA Sec. 102(a). Environmental impacts from surface coal mining (and the surface impacts of underground coal mining operations) are regulated through two basic mechanisms: a permit system (Secs. 506-514) and a series of performance standards (Secs. 515-516). The Act's permit provisions require that before engaging in a surface coal mining operation, a mine operator must submit detailed information concerning the environmental consequences of the proposed mining operations and include a plan for reclaming affected lands as required by the Act. Once the mining operation has begun, the mine operator must adhere to the statutory environmental performance standards, many of which relate to the obligation to restore and reclaim affected lands. See SMCRA Secs. 515-516.

    The Act can be enforced at either the state or federal level. After an interim period of direct federal regulation, states are authorized by the Act to assume a major regulatory role. A state wishing to take on that responsibility must submit a proposed regulatory program to the Secretary of the Interior ("Secretary"), who determines whether the state has the capability to implement SMCRA consistent with federal standards. With the Secretary's approval, the state then assumes primary responsibility for SMCRA enforcement and rulemaking.

    The Act has been a fertile source of litigation since its inception. In 1977, numerous

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    coal industry and environmental organizations filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the interim program regulations that went into effect shortly after the Act's passage and continued until the permanent regulatory regime went into effect in 1979 and 1980. The district court consolidated those challenges and ruled on them in two separate opinions. In re Surface Mining Regulation Litigation, 452 F.Supp. 327 (D.D.C.1978); In re Surface Mining Regulation Litigation, 456 F.Supp. 1301 (D.D.C.1978). This court subsequently affirmed the...

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