National Independent Coal Operators Association v. Kleppe, No. 73-2066

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBURGER
Citation96 S.Ct. 809,423 U.S. 388,46 L.Ed.2d 580
Docket NumberNo. 73-2066
Decision Date26 January 1976
PartiesNATIONAL INDEPENDENT COAL OPERATORS' ASSOCIATION et al., Petitioners, v. Thomas S. KLEPPE, Secretary of the Interior, et al

423 U.S. 388
96 S.Ct. 809
46 L.Ed.2d 580
NATIONAL INDEPENDENT COAL OPERATORS' ASSOCIATION et al., Petitioners,

v.

Thomas S. KLEPPE, Secretary of the Interior, et al.

No. 73-2066.
Argued Oct. 6, 1975.
Decided Jan. 26, 1976.
Syllabus

Section 109(a)(1) of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 requires the Secretary of the Interior to assess a civil monetary penalty against a coal mine operator for each violation of the mandatory health and safety standards prescribed by the Act and other provisions. But under § 109(a)(3) a penalty may be assessed only after the operator "has been given an opportunity for a public hearing and the Secretary has determined, by decision incorporating his findings of fact therein, that a violation did occur, and the amount of the penalty which is warranted . . . ." Implementing regulations provide that assessment officers assess a penalty based on a notice of violation issued by mine inspectors and a penalty schedule graduated according to the seriousness of the violation, and further provide that if the mine operator fails to make a timely protest against the proposed assessment and to request adjudication he is deemed to waive his right to protest, including his right to formal adjudication and opportunity for hearing, and the proposed assessment becomes the Secretary's "final assessment." An unpaid penalty is enforceable under the Act only by way of subsequent judicial hearing in a district court in which the operator is entitled to a trial de novo as to the amount of the penalty. Petitioners sought injunctive and declaratory relief on the ground that the summary civil penalty assessment procedures permitted by the regulations violated the Act's procedural requirements. The District Court upheld this contention, ruling that the Secretary must make express findings of fact, whether or not the operator requests a hearing. The Court of Appeals reversed. Held : The language of § 109(a)(3), especially when read in light of its legislative history, requires the Secretary to make formal findings of fact as a predicate for a penalty assessment order only when the mine operator exercises his

Page 389

statutory right to request an administrative hearing on the factual issues relating to the penalty. Pp. 397-402.

(a) The word "opportunity" as used in § 109(a)(3) would be meaningless if the statute contemplated formal adjudicated findings whether or not a requested evidentiary hearing is held, and absent a request for a hearing, the Secretary has a sufficient factual predicate for a penalty assessment based on the reports of the qualified inspectors who find violations; when the assessment officers fix penalties, as the Secretary's "authorized representatives," the operator may still have the penalty reviewed in the district court. P. 398.

(b) The requirement for a formal hearing under § 109(a)(3) is keyed to a request, and the requirement for formal findings is keyed to the same request. P. 398.

(c) Such a reading of the statute comports with the Act's purpose of imposing stricter coal mine regulation to prevent accidents and disasters; the deterrent provided by monetary sanctions is essential to that purpose, and effective enforcement of the Act would be weakened were the Secretary required to make findings of fact for every penalty assessment including those cases in which the mine operator did not request a hearing, thus indicating no disagreement with the Secretary's proposed determination. Pp. 398-399.

161 U.S.App.D.C 68, 494 F.2d 987, affirmed.

John L. Kilcullen, Washington, D. C., for the National Independent Coal Operator's Ass'n and others.

Fred Blackwell, Washington, D. C., for Delta Mining, Inc., and others.

A. Raymond Randolph, Jr., Washington, D. C., for the Secretary of the Interior and others.

Page 390

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case 1 presents the question whether the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, 83 Stat. 742, 30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq., requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a decision with formal findings of fact before assessing a civil penalty against a mine operator absent a request by the mine operator for an administrative hearing, the penalty being enforceable only by way of a subsequent judicial proceeding in which the operator is entitled to a trial de novo as to the amount of the penalty.

The National Independent Coal Operators' Association sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that certain civil penalty assessment regulations utilized by the Secretary violated the procedural requirements of the Act. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the regulations did not violate the Act.2 National Independent Coal Operators' Assn. v. Morton, 161 U.S.App.D.C. 68, 494 F.2d 987 (1974).

We granted certiorari, 420 U.S. 906, 95 S.Ct. 824, 42 L.Ed.2d 835 (1975), to resolve the apparent conflict between the District of Columbia Circuit and the Third Circuit holding in Morton v. Delta Mining Inc., 495 F.2d 38 (1974), reversed and remanded, 423 U.S. 403, 96 S.Ct. 816, 46 L.Ed.2d 591.

Page 391

(1)

The statutory provision in question, § 109(a)(3), 30 U.S.C. § 819(a)(3), is part of the enforcement scheme of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. The Act prescribes health and safety standards for the protection of coal miners, Titles II and III, 30 U.S.C. § 841 et seq. ; it requires coal mine operators and miners to comply with the standards. § 2(g)(2), 30 U.S.C. § 801(g)(2).

Section 103 of the Act, 30 U.S.C. § 813, requires the Secretary to conduct continuing surveillance of mines by inspectors. Among the purposes of the inspections are finding imminently dangerous conditions and violations of mandatory health or safety standards. Section 104, 30 U.S.C. § 814, provides procedures for abating the conditions found by the inspectors. If an imminent danger is found, the inspector is required to issue a withdrawal order compelling the mine operator to withdraw all persons from the danger area. If a violation of a mandatory standard is found that is not imminently dangerous, the inspector issues a notice to the operator fixing a reasonable time for its abatement. If the violation is not abated and the time for abatement is not extended, the inspector then issues a withdrawal order. Withdrawal orders are also issued for any "unwarrantable failure" of mine operators to comply with the standards. The notices and orders issued contain a detailed description of the dangerous conditions or violations and their locations. The notices must be in writing and given promptly to the mine operators.

Under § 105, 30 U.S.C. § 815, an operator may apply to the Secretary for review of the factual basis of any order or notice issued under § 104, or for review of the amount of time allowed for abatement of violations. Upon application from a mine operator the Secretary

Page 392

makes whatever investigation he deems appropriate; an opportunity for a public hearing is provided. Hearings are subject to § 5 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 554, and following the hearing the Secretary must make findings of fact. Section 105 also requires that actions by the Secretary be taken promptly because of the urgent need for prompt decision. The orders issued by the Secretary under this section are subject to judicial review under § 106, 30 U.S.C. § 816, by a court of appeals.

As part of the enforcement scheme, the Act requires the Secretary to assess and collect civil penalties. Section 109(a)(1), 30 U.S.C. § 819(a)(1), subjects mine operators to civil penalties not exceeding $10,000 for each violation of a mandatory standard or other provision of the Act. In determining the amount of the penalty, § 109(a)(1) requires the Secretary to consider

"the operator's history of previous violations, the appropriateness of such penalty to the size of the business of the operator charged, whether the operator was negligent, the effect on the operator's ability to continue in business, the gravity of the violation, and the demonstrated good faith of the operator charged in attempting to achieve rapid compliance after notification of a violation."

The provision in question, § 109(a)(3), authorizes the Secretary to assess a civil penalty only after the operator charged with a violation "has been given an opportunity for a public hearing and the Secretary has determined, by decision incorporating his findings of fact therein, that a violation did occur, and the amount of the penalty which is warranted . . . ." Hearings under this section are to be consolidated with other proceedings when appropriate. They must be of record

Page 393

and subject to provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 554.

If the operator does not pay the penalty assessed, the Secretary is required, pursuant to § 109(a)(4), 30 U.S.C. § 819(a)(4), to petition for judicial enforcement of the assessment in the district court for the district in which the mine is located. At that stage the court must resolve the issues relevant to the amount of the penalty in a de novo proceeding with a jury trial if requested. The trial de novo with a jury is not available for review of issues of fact which "were or could have been litigated" in the court of appeals under § 106.3

(2)

We are concerned in this case with the regulations the Secretary has adopted to govern only one part of this statutory scheme: the assessment of penalties under § 109(a)(3). When the Secretary initially implemented the Act, he published regulations that provided for civil penalty assessments to be determined by a hearing examiner, with a right of appeal to a departmental appeals board. 30 CFR pt. 301 (1971), recodified, 43 CFR § 4.540 et seq. (1972). Nine months later, due to the large numbers of violations charged (approximately 80,000 or more per year), the Secretary...

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26 practice notes
  • Surface coal mining hearings and appeals; special rules,
    • United States
    • Federal Register March 20, 2003
    • March 20, 2003
    ...fact and the seriousness of the violation. National Independent Coal Operators' Association et al. v. Kleppe, Secretary of the Interior, 423 U.S. 388, 397 (1976) (holding that under the predecessor Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, when a hearing is requested, the burden of proof remains wit......
  • Costle v. Pacific Legal Foundation, No. 78-1472
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 18, 1980
    ...fact on the party challenging the agency's action. 586 F.2d, at 658-659, nn. 3 and 4 (discussing National Coal Operators' Assn. v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 397-398, 96 S.Ct. 809, 814, 46 L.Ed.2d 580 (1976); Weinberger v. Hynson, Westcott & Dunning, Inc., 412 U.S. 609, 620, 93 S.Ct. 2469, 2478,......
  • Mullins v. Andrus, No. 77-1086
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 31, 1980
    ...note 1, 189 U.S.App.D.C. at 115-116 n.50, 581 F.2d at 893-894 n.50, referring to National Independent Coal Operators' Ass'n v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 391, 96 S.Ct. 809, 811, 46 L.Ed.2d 580, 584 (1976); Kanawha Coal Co. v. Andrus, 553 F.2d 361, 363 (4th Cir. 1977). 61 See UMW v. Andrus (Carbo......
  • Association of Bituminous Contractors, Inc. v. Andrus, Nos. 75-1931 and 75-1932
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 22, 1978
    ..."any and all 'relevant issues' are to be reheard De novo by a district court." In National Coal Operators' Association v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 96 S.Ct. 809, 46 L.Ed.2d 580 (1976), the Supreme Court described review under section 819(a) (4) as If the operator does not pay the penalty assess......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Costle v. Pacific Legal Foundation, No. 78-1472
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 18, 1980
    ...fact on the party challenging the agency's action. 586 F.2d, at 658-659, nn. 3 and 4 (discussing National Coal Operators' Assn. v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 397-398, 96 S.Ct. 809, 814, 46 L.Ed.2d 580 (1976); Weinberger v. Hynson, Westcott & Dunning, Inc., 412 U.S. 609, 620, 93 S.Ct. 2469, 2478,......
  • Mullins v. Andrus, No. 77-1086
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 31, 1980
    ...note 1, 189 U.S.App.D.C. at 115-116 n.50, 581 F.2d at 893-894 n.50, referring to National Independent Coal Operators' Ass'n v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 391, 96 S.Ct. 809, 811, 46 L.Ed.2d 580, 584 (1976); Kanawha Coal Co. v. Andrus, 553 F.2d 361, 363 (4th Cir. 1977). 61 See UMW v. Andrus (Carbo......
  • Association of Bituminous Contractors, Inc. v. Andrus, Nos. 75-1931 and 75-1932
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 22, 1978
    ..."any and all 'relevant issues' are to be reheard De novo by a district court." In National Coal Operators' Association v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 96 S.Ct. 809, 46 L.Ed.2d 580 (1976), the Supreme Court described review under section 819(a) (4) as If the operator does not pay the penalty assess......
  • Pacific Legal Foundation v. Costle, Nos. 77-2909
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 9, 1978
    ...League v. Costle, 572 F.2d 872 (1st Cir. 1978). 3 We recognize that National Independent Coal Operators Association v. Kleppe, 423 U.S. 388, 397-98, 96 S.Ct. 809, 46 L.Ed.2d 580 (1976) suggests in dictum that a failure to request a hearing waives any right to a hearing and that the power to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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