National Wildlife Federation v. Hodel, s. 84-5743

Decision Date29 January 1988
Docket Number84-5772,84-5744,Nos. 84-5743,84-5757,s. 84-5743
Citation839 F.2d 694,268 U.S.App.D.C. 15
Parties, 268 U.S.App.D.C. 15, 18 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,646 NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, et al., Appellants, v. Donald P. HODEL, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Appellees. 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.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

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 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

II. STANDING ............................................................ 703

A. The History of the Standing Issue in this Case .................. 703
B. A Brief Overview of Standing Doctrine ........................... 703
C. NWF's Standing on Particular Issues ............................. 706

1. Issues where the Secetary has Eliminated Minimum National

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

2. Issues where the Challenge to Standing Focuses on the

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

a. Federal Lands ........................................... 711
b. Off-Site Facilities ..................................... 712
c. Host Soils .............................................. 713
d. Prime Farmland Lakes .................................... 713
e. Support Facilities on Prime Farmland .................... 714
f. Variances from Original Contours ........................ 714
g. Submerged Highwalls ..................................... 715
h. Actual Grazing on Land .................................. 715
D. Conclusion ...................................................... 716

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

A. Prime Farmland and Pastureland Issues ........................... 716

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

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

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

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

b. Exemption for Prime Farmland Affected by Coal

Preparation Plants, Support Facilities,

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

B. Bonding to Assure Reclamation of Land Affected by Mine Operations ..................................................... 723

1. Incremental and Phased Bonding .............................. 724

2. Bonding for Damage Caused by Subsidence of Land Overlying

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

C. Regulatory Guidance ............................................. 729

1. Alluvial Valley Floors ...................................... 729

2. Mine Waste .................................................. 731

3. Backfilling and Grading ..................................... 734

a. Contemporaneous Reclamation ............................. 735
b. Thin and Thick Overburden ............................... 736
c. Terraces ................................................ 737
D. Residual Issues ................................................. 739

1. Damage Caused by Subsidence of Land Overlying Underground

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

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

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

4. Alluvial Valley Floors Performance Standards ................ 746

5. Substantial Legal and Financial Commitment .................. 747

E. Residual Issues II .............................................. 748

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

2. Values Incompatible with Surface Mining ..................... 751

3. Replacement of Damaged Water Supplies by Operators of

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

a. The Unplain Meaning of Section 717(b) ................... 753
b. The "Puzzling Contradiction" of Section 508(a)(13)'s Permitting Requirements .................................. 754

4. Exemption from Water Replacement Requirements for Holders of

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

5. Cumulative Hydrologic Assessment--What is "Anticipated

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

6. Elimination of Underwater Highwalls ......................... 759

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

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

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

10. Use of Proximity as a Factor in Determining Jurisdiction

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

11. Delegability of Secretary's Authority Over Federal Land

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

IV. CONCLUSION .......................................................... 768

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 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 district court's judgment in part, and reversed in part. In re Surface Mining Regulation Litigation, 627 F.2d 1346 (D.C.Cir.1980) ("SMRL ").

Buffeted by politics and the courts, the interpretation of SMCRA has been an epic in itself....

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