Granite Rock Co. v. California Coastal Com'n

Citation590 F. Supp. 1361
Decision Date21 May 1984
Docket NumberNo. C-83-5137-WWS.,C-83-5137-WWS.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California
PartiesGRANITE ROCK COMPANY, a corporation, Plaintiff, v. CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION, an administrative agency of the State of California, et al., Defendants.


Barbara R. Banke, Goldstein, Barceloux & Goldstein, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiff.

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


SCHWARZER, District Judge.

This action presents important questions of statutory interpretation and federal preemption arising from the interrelationship among two federal statutes, the Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1451 et seq. ("CZMA") and the Mining Act of 1872, 30 U.S.C. §§ 21 et seq. ("Mining Act"), federal regulations issued by the National Forest Service, 36 C.F.R. §§ 228.1 et seq. (1983), and a state statute, the California Coastal Act, Cal.Pub.Res.Code §§ 30000 et seq. ("CCA"). At issue is whether plaintiff Granite Rock Company must secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission ("CCC") to implement its Plan of Operations, already approved by the Forest Service, for open-pit limestone mining on federally-owned property in Los Padres National Forest.

Plaintiff seeks (1) to enjoin defendant officials of the CCC1 from compelling it to comply with the permit requirement of the CCA and (2) to obtain corresponding declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201. It claims that the CZMA, under the auspices of which the CCA was enacted, expressly excludes federally-owned lands from the coastal zone and that application of the CCA to its mining operations is preempted by the Mining Act and the Forest Service Regulations. Defendant CCC officials answer that the CZMA and thus the CCA do not exclude land over which the federal government's discretion is limited by the unique property rights granted by the Mining Act to holders of patentable mining claims. Defendants further contend that the Mining Act cannot preempt the CCA which is enacted "pursuant to" the federal CZMA. Finally, they argue that even if all federal land is excluded from the coastal zone, neither the Mining Act nor the CZMA preempts the state's inherent police power to regulate private mining activity on federal land. Both parties agree that there are no material facts in dispute, and plaintiff has moved for summary judgment.


Because of the complex web of statutes and regulations at issue in this action, it is helpful at the outset to briefly note their major provisions.

A. The Mining Act.

The Mining Act grants private citizens the right to enter federal lands to explore for mineral deposits, see 30 U.S.C. § 22. Until a person has located a valuable mineral deposit, he has a limited possessory interest in the land he occupies against third parties but not against the United States; the government may bar entry to such person at any time. A person who locates a valuable mineral deposit acquires a significantly more substantial interest in the surface land as long as he properly stakes a claim and complies with other statutory requirements, see id. § 26. For example, the claim holder must prepare locational records and must expend at least $100 of labor on the claim each year, id. § 28. If these requirements are met and the claim is thus perfected, its locator "shall have the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the surface included within the lines of their locations," id. § 26, even as against the United States which nevertheless retains title to the land.

Finally, the holder of a perfected mining claim may secure a patent to the land by demonstrating his location of a valuable mining claim and complying with other requirements of the Mining Act and regulations enacted thereunder, see 43 C.F.R. §§ 3861.1 et seq. (1983), including payment to the government of $5.00 per acre, 30 U.S.C. § 29. If these requirements are satisfied, issuance by the government of a patent to the land is mandatory, and legal title passes to the patent-holder.

B. Forest Service Regulations.

Regulatory power over surface resources of national forest system lands is granted to the Secretary of Agriculture by the Organic Administration Act of 1897, 16 U.S.C. § 471 ("OAA"). Pursuant to that authority, the National Forest Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, issued regulations in 1974 governing "use of the surface" of national forest system lands in connection with operations authorized by the Mining Act, 36 C.F.R. § 228.1 (1983). These regulations, which are designed to "minimize the adverse environmental impacts" of mining operations on forest land, require that holders of unpatented mining claims submit for approval by the District Ranger a Plan of Operations, id. § 228.4. In addition to describing precisely the scope of the intended operations, the Plan must demonstrate proposed compliance with applicable state and federal environmental standards relating to, among other things, air and water quality, solid waste disposal, preservation of scenic values, and fisheries and wildlife habitat maintenance, id. § 228.8. Operations are then to be conducted in accordance with the approved Plan, id. § 228.5.

C. The CZMA.

The CZMA, enacted in 1972 and amended in 1976, seeks to preserve and develop the nation's coastal zones, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1451-1452, by providing monetary assistance to states that develop and implement coastal Management Programs consistent with its standards, id. §§ 1451, 1453(g). After the Secretary of Commerce has determined a state program to comply with the requirements set forth in the CZMA, id. §§ 1454-1455, the state receives federal grants of up to 80% of the cost of administering its program, id. § 1455(a).

The CZMA envisions state management only of land use within the coastal zone: thus, "Management Program" is defined to include "standards to guide public and private uses of land and waters in the coastal zone," id. § 1453(12), "land use" is defined as "activities which are conducted in, or on the shorelands within, the coastal zone," id. § 1453(10), and the Management Programs are required to include "a definition of what shall constitute permissible land uses and water uses within the coastal zone..." id. 1454(b)(2). The "coastal zone" is defined in § 1453(1), the provision at issue in this action, to include coastal waters and adjacent shorelands but excludes "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."

The Act also seeks to promote cooperation between federal and state agencies engaged in activities within or affecting the coastal zone. Thus, the CZMA requires a showing of "consistency" with state Management Programs of (1) activities conducted or supported by a Federal agency and "directly affecting the coastal zone," id. § 1456(c)(1), (2) development projects undertaken by a Federal agency in the coastal zone, id. § 1456(c)(2), and (3) activities for which a Federal permit or license is required and which affect land or water uses in the coastal zone, id. § 1456(c)(3)(A). Under the statutory scheme, for example, an activity outside of but affecting the coastal zone by a federal permittee would not be subject to direct regulation by the state's Management Program but would be subject to "consistency review" by the state under § 1456(c)(3)(A).

D. The CCA.

In 1976 the California legislature enacted the CCA which was approved by the Secretary of Commerce pursuant to the CZMA in 1977. Under the Act, a person wishing to undertake any "development," which is defined to include mining and construction, Cal.Pub.Res.Code § 30106, in the coastal zone must secure a permit from a local or regional commission or the CCC, id. § 30600. The permit shall be issued if the proposed development conforms with the requirements set forth in §§ 30200 et seq. which address such concerns as ocean access, marine and land resources, and scenic and visual qualities. Moreover, the CCA provides that it shall constitute the state's Management Program for purposes of the CZMA,

provided, however, that within federal lands excluded from the coastal zone pursuant to the Federal CZMA, the State of California shall, consistent with applicable federal and state laws, continue to exercise the full range of powers, rights, and privileges it now possesses or which may be granted,

id. § 30008.2

E. This Action.

Plaintiff is presently engaged in commercial mining of a valuable five to seven-acre quarry3 of high calcium whiting grade limestone on and around Mount Pico Blanco in the Big Sur region of Los Padres National Forest. Although from 1959 to 1980, plaintiff removed relatively small samples of limestone for mineral analysis, it has been extracting substantial amounts since 1981 for purposes of resale to private purchasers. Its mining activity in Big Sur, conceded to be an area of great scenic beauty, includes blasting and opening a quarry, constructing and improving roads, building a bridge, boring test holes and conducting core drilling, improving a water storage system, and dumping rock waste in a disposal area.

Although plaintiff has not sought to acquire patents to the land, there is no dispute that it has perfected its mining claims on Mount Pico Blanco by locating a valuable mineral deposit, by complying with locational requirements, and by carrying out at least $100 worth of labor on the claims since 1959. Accordingly, as required by the Forest Service Regulations, plaintiff in 1981 submitted a Plan of Operations for approval by the District Ranger covering the period from 1981 to 1986.4 In February 1981, after preparation of an Environmental Assessment, plaintiff's Plan was accepted with certain modifications regarding monitoring and mitigation measures and with the proviso that plaintiff be responsible "for obtaining any necessary permits required...

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5 cases
  • California Coastal Commission v. Granite Rock Company
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    ...were no material facts in dispute. The District Court denied Granite Rock's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. 590 F.Supp. 1361 (1984). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. 768 F.2d 1077 (1985). The Court of Appeals held that the Coastal Commission permit ......
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  • Granite Rock Co. v. California Coastal Com'n
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2 books & journal articles
  • Local Zoning and Building Regulation of Other Governmental Entities
    • United States
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