Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, No. 83-1224

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtBefore TAMM and WILKEY, Circuit Judges, and MacKINNON; TAMM
Citation725 F.2d 1434
Parties, 233 U.S.App.D.C. 328, 14 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,205 SAVE OUR CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS, INC., Council of Southern Mountains, Inc. v. William P. CLARK, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, et al., Appellants.
Decision Date02 April 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-1224

Page 1434

725 F.2d 1434
20 ERC 1315, 233 U.S.App.D.C. 328, 14
Envtl. L. Rep. 20,205
SAVE OUR CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS, INC., Council of Southern
Mountains, Inc.
v.
William P. CLARK, in his official capacity as Secretary of
the Interior, et al., Appellants.
No. 83-1224.
United States Court of Appeals,
District of Columbia Circuit.
Argued Sept. 26, 1983.
Decided Jan. 20, 1984.
Rehearing Denied April 2, 1984.
Rehearing En Banc Granted April 2, 1984. *

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (D.C. Civil Action No. 81-2134).

Roger Marzulla, Atty., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for appellants. Carol E. Dinkins, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Robert L. Klarquist, Alfred T. Ghiorzi, and Jennele M. Morris, Attys., U.S. Dept. of Justice, and Harold P. Quinn, Jr., Atty., U.S. Dept. of

Page 1435

Interior, Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellants.

Brent N. Rushforth, Washington, D.C., with whom L. Thomas Galloway and Nancy C. Crisman, Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellees.

Before TAMM and WILKEY, Circuit Judges, and MacKINNON, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge TAMM.

TAMM, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a district court order compelling the Secretary of the Interior (the Secretary) and the Director of the Office of Surface Mining (the Director) to enforce the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (the Act), 30 U.S.C. Secs. 1201-1328 (Supp. V 1981). Because we find that the district court erred in ruling that venue was properly in this district, we reverse. 1

I. FACTS

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 is a comprehensive statute designed to control and remedy the effects of surface coal mining operations. The Secretary of the Interior is primarily responsible for administering and implementing the provisions of the Act. The dispute in this case concerns the Secretary's duty to take enforcement action against persons that he has determined are violating the Act.

Two environmental citizen groups, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. and Council of Southern Mountains (hereinafter referred to collectively as SOCM), filed this action on September 8, 1981. They alleged that the Secretary and the Director had failed to assess mandatory penalties against over 700 mine operators that had been cited for violations of the Act. 2 SOCM further asserted that the Secretary had violated his own mandatory regulation by failing to initiate enforcement actions against hundreds of mine operators that continued to violate the Act after expiration of a 30-day penalty period. 3 Jurisdiction for the action was based on section 520(a)(2) of the Act, which authorizes citizens' suits against the Secretary for failure to perform nondiscretionary duties. 30 U.S.C. Sec. 1270(a)(2). In addition, the complaint alleged jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1331, 1337, 1361, 2201, and 2202 (1976 & Supp. V 1981).

The Secretary moved to dismiss the action asserting that the specific venue provision in section 520(c)(1) of the Act, 30 U.S.C. Sec. 1270(c)(1), precludes venue in this

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district. The Secretary further alleged that the district court lacked jurisdiction because his duty to assess penalties and enforce the Act is entirely discretionary.

The Secretary's motion to dismiss was denied. The district court ruled that the specific venue provision in section 520(c)(1) applied only to actions involving individual coal mines and not to actions, such as this one, that challenged a purported national policy. The court ruled that venue was properly in this district under the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1391. Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Watt, 550 F.Supp. 979, 980-81 (D.D.C.1982). The district court then concluded that the Secretary's duty to collect civil penalties and initiate alternative enforcement is mandatory. Finding no issues of fact remaining, the court entered judgment for the plaintiffs. Id. at 983.

The Secretary brought this appeal. He contends that the specific venue provision in section 520(c)(1) governs this action and thus venue is improper in this district. We agree that the specific venue provision is applicable to the claim in this case and, accordingly, we reverse the district court's decision. 4

II. DISCUSSION

In our decision today in Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, 725 F.2d 1422, we concluded that all actions against the Secretary for failure to perform duties required by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act are governed by the specific venue provision in section 520(c)(1) of the Act. That decision controls our disposition of this case. We incorporate that decision's discussion of the applicability of the specific venue provision into this opinion.

Under the specific venue provision, any claim alleging a violation of the Act or its regulations must be brought in the district where the mine operation complained of is located. 5 Here, SOCM alleges that the Secretary failed to perform duties required by the Act and its regulations because he failed to assess civil penalties and initiate enforcement proceedings against mines that he determined were violating the Act. A claim that the Secretary has failed to perform a duty required by the Act is, in essence, a claim that he has violated the Act. By its terms, therefore, the venue provision applies to the claim in this case.

SOCM raises two principal arguments in support of its position that the specific venue provision does not apply to this claim. First, it argues that the venue provision applies only to actions brought against individual mining operators pursuant to section 520(a)(1) of the Act and not to actions against the Secretary for failure to perform nondiscretionary duties under...

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6 practice notes
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, No. 83-1008
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 2, 1984
    ..."appellees" or "the Secretary." 3 This action was consolidated for purposes of oral argument and decision with case number 83-1224, 725 F.2d 1434, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. 4 Under the Act, states may assume exclusive administration of surface mining regulations. In order to as......
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Lujan, No. 90-5374
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 11, 1993
    ...reversed the judgment against the Secretary in this case. Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, 725 F.2d 1422 (Two-acres case), 725 F.2d 1434 (instant case) (D.C.Cir.1984). The appellate panel concluded that section 520(c)(1) governed all citizen suits under section 520(a) and there......
  • Nat'l Mining Assoc. v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, No. 96-5274
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 8, 2001
    ...Dist. LEXIS 22934, at *1-*4 (D.D.C. Jan. 31, 1985); Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Watt, 550 F. Supp. 979, 980 (D.D.C. 1982), rev'd, 725 F.2d 1434 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Section 1260(c) provides that a permitting authority may not issue a permit if "the schedule [attached to the permit applica......
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, Civ. A. No. 81-2134.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 23, 1986
    ...decision, and on January 20, 1984, this Court's ruling was reversed on procedural grounds. Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, 725 F.2d 1434 (D.C. Cir.1984). The Circuit Court held that venue did not lie in the District of Columbia to review the Interior Secretary's failure to see......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, No. 83-1008
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 2, 1984
    ..."appellees" or "the Secretary." 3 This action was consolidated for purposes of oral argument and decision with case number 83-1224, 725 F.2d 1434, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. 4 Under the Act, states may assume exclusive administration of surface mining regulations. In order to as......
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Lujan, No. 90-5374
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 11, 1993
    ...reversed the judgment against the Secretary in this case. Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, 725 F.2d 1422 (Two-acres case), 725 F.2d 1434 (instant case) (D.C.Cir.1984). The appellate panel concluded that section 520(c)(1) governed all citizen suits under section 520(a) and there......
  • Nat'l Mining Assoc. v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, No. 96-5274
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 8, 2001
    ...Dist. LEXIS 22934, at *1-*4 (D.D.C. Jan. 31, 1985); Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Watt, 550 F. Supp. 979, 980 (D.D.C. 1982), rev'd, 725 F.2d 1434 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Section 1260(c) provides that a permitting authority may not issue a permit if "the schedule [attached to the permit applica......
  • Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, Civ. A. No. 81-2134.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 23, 1986
    ...decision, and on January 20, 1984, this Court's ruling was reversed on procedural grounds. Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Clark, 725 F.2d 1434 (D.C. Cir.1984). The Circuit Court held that venue did not lie in the District of Columbia to review the Interior Secretary's failure to see......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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