California Coastal Commission v. Granite Rock Company

Citation480 U.S. 572,94 L.Ed.2d 577,107 S.Ct. 1419
Decision Date24 March 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-1200,85-1200
PartiesCALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION, et al., Appellants, v. GRANITE ROCK COMPANY
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Syllabus

The Mining Act of 1872 authorizes a private citizen to enter federal lands to explore for mineral deposits, to perfect a mining claim, and to secure a patent to the land by complying with the requirements of the Act and regulations promulgated thereunder. Appellee Granite Rock Co. holds unpatented mining claims on federally owned lands in a national forest located in California. In accordance with federal regulations, Granite Rock obtained approval from the Forest Service in 1981 of its 5-year plan for mining limestone on the lands, and began to mine shortly thereafter. In 1983, the California Coastal Commission (Commission), acting pursuant to the California Coastal Act (CCA), instructed Granite Rock to apply for a coastal development permit for any mining undertaken after the date of the Commission's letter. Under the CCA, the Commission is the State's coastal zone management program for purposes of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), which provides for financial assistance to States for the development of coastal zone management programs and which defines a State's coastal zone so as to exclude "lands the use of which is by law subject solely to the discretion of or which is held in trust by the Federal Government, its officers or agents." Granite Rock filed suit in Federal District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that the Commission's permit requirement was pre-empted by Forest Service Regulations, by the Mining Act of 1872, and by the CZMA. The court denied Granite Rock's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Commission's permit requirement, which enforced state environmental standards, was pre-empted by the Mining Act of 1872 and Forest Service regulations.

Held:

1. The case is not moot even though Granite Rock's 5-year plan of operations expired during the course of the litigation. Because the Commission asserts that Granite Rock needed a Commission permit for work undertaken after the date of the Commission's letter, the Commission may require reclamation efforts to prevent river pollution resulting from the mining that has already occurred. Granite Rock disputes the Commission's authority to require such reclamation. Also, it is likely that Granite Rock will submit new plans of operation in the future, and dispute would continue as to enforcement of the conditions of a Commission permit. This Court does not have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2) because the Court of Appeals invalidated only the Commission's exercise of authority under the CCA, not any portion of the state statute itself as is required under § 1254(2). However, treating the jurisdictional statement as a petition for certiorari, the petition is granted. Pp. 579-581.

2. Neither Forest Service regulations, nor federal land use statutes, nor the CZMA pre-empts the Commission's imposition of a permit requirement on operation of an unpatented mining claim in a national forest. Pp. 579-594.

(a) The Property Clause of the Constitution—which gives Congress plenary power to legislate the use of federal lands—does not itself automatically conflict with all state regulation of federal lands. The question in this case is governed by the usual pre-emption analysis whereby state law is pre-empted if Congress has evidenced an intent to occupy entirely a given field or, where Congress has not entirely displaced state regulation, if state law actually conflicts with federal law. Pp. 579-581.

(b) The Forest Service regulations, governing the use of unpatented mining claims on federal forest lands authorized by the Mining Act of 1872 (which expressed no legislative intent on the then rarely contemplated subject of environmental regulation), do not justify a facial challenge to all conditions that might be imposed by the Commission's permit requirement. It is appropriate to expect an administrative regulation to declare any intention to pre-empt state law with some specificity. The Forest Service regulations here not only are devoid of any expression of intent to pre-empt state law, but rather appear to assume that those submitting plans of operation will comply with state environmental protection laws. Pp. 581-584.

(c) There is no merit to the contention that federal land management statutes—the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act—demonstrate a legislative intent to limit States to a purely advisory role in federal land management decisions, and that the Commission permit requirement is therefore pre-empted as an impermissible state land use regulation. Even if it is assumed (without deciding the issue) that the combination of those federal Acts pre-empts the extension of state land use plans to unpatented mining claims in national forest lands, the Commission asserts that it will use permit conditions to impose environmental regulation, not land use planning. Congress has indicated its understanding of land use planning and environmental regulation as distinct activities, and thus it is anomalous to maintain that Congress intended any state environmental regulation of unpatented mining claims in national forests to be per se pre-empted as an impermissible exercise of state land use planning. In the present posture of this litigation, the Commission's identification of a possible set of permit conditions not pre-empted by federal law is sufficient to rebuff Granite Rock's facial challenge to the permit requirement. Pp. 584-589.

(d) The CZMA, by excluding federal lands from its definition of the coastal zone, does not demonstrate a congressional intent to pre-empt any possible Commission permit requirement as applied to the mining of Granite Rock's unpatented claim. The CZMA's language and legislative history expressly disclaim an intent to automatically pre-empt all state regulation of activities on federal lands. Congress' statements indicate that it intended the CZMA not to be an independent cause of pre-emption except in cases of actual conflict between state and federal law. Pp. 589-593.

768 F.2d 1077, reversed and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II of which POWELL and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. ----. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, J., joined, post, p. ----.

Linus Masouredis, San Francisco, Cal., for appellants.

Barbara R. Banke, San Francisco, Cal., for appellee.

Jeffrey P. Minear, Washington, D.C., for the U.S., as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether Forest Service regulations, federal land use statutes and regulations, or the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), 16 U.S.C. § 1451 et seq. (1982 ed. and Supp. III), pre-empt the California Coastal Commission's imposition of a permit requirement on operation of an unpatented mining claim in a national forest.

I

Granite Rock Company is a privately owned firm that mines chemical and pharmaceutical grade white limestone. Under the Mining Act of 1872, 17 Stat. 91, as amended, 30 U.S.C. § 22 et seq., a private citizen may enter federal lands to explore for mineral deposits. If a person locates a valuable mineral deposit on federal land, and perfects the claim by properly staking it and complying with other statutory requirements, the claimant "shall have the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the surface included within the lines of their locations," 30 U.S.C. § 26, although the United States retains title to the land. The holder of a perfected mining claim may secure a patent to the land by com- plying with the requirements of the Mining Act and regulations promulgated thereunder, see 43 CFR § 3861.1 et seq. (1986), and, upon issuance of the patent, legal title to the land passes to the patent holder. Granite Rock holds unpatented mining claims on federally owned lands on and around Mount Pico Blanco in the Big Sur region of Los Padres National Forest.

From 1959 to 1980, Granite Rock removed small samples of limestone from this area for mineral analysis. In 1980, in accordance with federal regulations, see 36 CFR § 228.1 et seq. (1986), Granite Rock submitted to the Forest Service a 5-year plan of operations for the removal of substantial amounts of limestone. The plan discussed the location and appearance of the mining operation, including the size and shape of excavations, the location of all access roads, and the storage of any overburden. App. 27-34. The Forest Service prepared an Environmental Assessment of the plan. Id., at 38-53. The Assessment recommended modifications of the plan, and the responsible Forest Service Acting District Ranger approved the plan with the recommended modifications in 1981. Id., at 54. Shortly after Forest Service approval of the modified plan of operations, Granite Rock began to mine.

Under the California Coastal Act (CCA), Cal.Pub.Res.Code Ann. § 30000 et seq. (West 1986), any person undertaking any development, including mining, in the State's coastal zone must secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission. §§ 30106, 30600. According to the CCA, the Coastal Commission exercises the State's police power and constitutes the State's coastal zone management program for purposes of the federal CZMA, described infra, at ---- - ----. In 1983 the Coastal Commission instructed Granite Rock to apply for a coastal development permit for any mining undertaken after the date of the Commission's letter.1 Granite Rock immediately filed...

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