Tex. E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation, No. 16-0827

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtDavis, Justice
Citation807 S.E.2d 802
Parties TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION, LP, Petitioner Below, Petitioner, v. WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DIVISION OF MINING AND RECLAMATION, and The Marshall County Coal Company f/k/a McElroy Coal Company, Respondents Below, Respondents. and The Marshall County Coal Company, f/k/a McElroy Coal Company, Petitioner Below, Petitioner, v. Texas Eastern Transmission, LP, and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Mining and Reclamation, Respondents Below, Respondents.
Decision Date16 November 2017
Docket NumberNo. 16-0827, No. 16-0877

807 S.E.2d 802

TEXAS EASTERN TRANSMISSION, LP, Petitioner Below, Petitioner,
v.
WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DIVISION OF MINING AND RECLAMATION,
and
The Marshall County Coal Company f/k/a McElroy Coal Company, Respondents Below, Respondents.

and
The Marshall County Coal Company, f/k/a McElroy Coal Company, Petitioner Below, Petitioner,
v.
Texas Eastern Transmission, LP,
and
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Mining and Reclamation, Respondents Below, Respondents.

No. 16-0827
No. 16-0877

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted: September 13, 2017
Filed: November 16, 2017


Kent George, W. Bradley Sorrells, Robinson & McElwee, PLLC, Charleston, West Virginia, Craig P. Wilson, pro hac vice, Anthony R. Holtzman, pro hac vice, K&L Gates LLP, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Texas Eastern Transmission, LP

Douglas J. Feichtner, pro hac vice, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, Jacob A. Manning, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Wheeling, West Virginia, William E. Robinson, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Charleston, West Virginia, Attorneys for The Marshall County Coal Company

Scott Driver, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Charleston, West Virginia, Attorney for West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection

Jonathan T. Storage, West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, Charleston, West Virginia, Attorney for Amicus Curiae, West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways

Davis, Justice:

These consolidated appeals require the Court to interpret various provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Rule ("WVSCMRR"), W. Va. CSR §§ 38-2-1 et seq. , to determine whether a coal company must, in its application for a modification of its mining permit, describe how it will comply with the Utility Protection Standard found at W. Va. CSR § 38-2-14.17. We also are asked to determine whether the Subsidence Control Plan in the permit application under review adequately set out specific steps that would be taken to protect interstate gas pipelines that cross above a proposed mine site. Finally, we are asked to address whether the WVSCMRR abrogates the common law with respect to a coal operator's right to subside. We conclude that the circuit court correctly found the WVSCMRR does not require a permit application to demonstrate compliance with the Utility Protection Standard. Likewise, we find no error with the circuit court's ruling that the permit application sufficiently described how the coal operator would comply with the Utility Protection Standard. Accordingly, those rulings are affirmed. However, we conclude that the circuit court erred in finding that the WVSCMRR applied regardless of a coal operator's common law property rights. We, therefore, reverse that portion of the circuit court's rulings.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Marshall County Coal Company f/k/a McElroy Coal Company ("Marshall Coal") claims that it has ownership of certain underground coal reserves in Marshall County, West Virginia, as well as extensive contractual common law rights to access and mine the coal without liability for effects on the surface of lands overlying the reserve.1 Marshall Coal further contends that, on February 10, 1983, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ("WVDEP") issued to Marshall Coal a mine permit authorizing it to explore, develop, and extract coal by longwall mining underneath the surface at the McElroy mine in Marshall County.2 In December 2007, Marshall Coal submitted to WVDEP an application for a revision to its permit for the McElroy mine ("Permit Revision Application 33"). The purpose of the revision was to "add area to the subsidence control plan for developmental and longwall mining for the McElroy Deep Mine."3

807 S.E.2d 806

Subsequent to Marshall Coal obtaining ownership of the coal reserves and the right to subside the surface, Texas Eastern Transmission, LP ("Texas Eastern") obtained rights-of-way for a portion of the surface area above Marshall Coal's reserves. These rights-of-way allow Texas Eastern to operate four interstate gas transmission pipelines that cross the revised permit area over a distance of approximately four miles. The pipelines are operated pursuant to certificates of public convenience and necessity issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.4 According to Texas Eastern, the pipelines transport over two billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to consumers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. The pipelines, which are buried at a depth of approximately three feet, range from thirty to thirty-six inches in diameter. The gas pressure in the pipelines is said to vary between approximately 700 and 1,000 pounds per square inch. Texas Eastern avers that the pipelines have limited tolerance for stress created by ground movement associated with subsidence.

As part of its Permit Revision Application 33, Marshall Coal submitted a subsidence control plan stating, in part, under the heading "Renewable Resource Lands and Features":

Surface lands other than what is used for dwellings or businesses overlying the projected mining area are primarily pasturelands and non-commercial woodlands. These areas were identified using aerial photographs.

Surface topography in this mining area is primarily comprised of steeply sloping hillsides with limited land uses. Primarily, the land uses are limited to the hilltops and ridgelines where the topography consists of more moderately sloping hillsides and fairly broad ridgetops suitable for pastures and hay/crops, respectively. There are no intensively managed commercial forests or public use lands within the projected mining area....

Due to the mining method (longwall) utilized in the mining of the areas proposed in this application, it is expected that there will be planned subsidence of the above-mentioned surface features and renewable resource lands. If subsidence does occur as a result of the longwall mining, that causes material damage or reduces the value or reasonable foreseeable use of the surface lands, [Marshall Coal] will restore the land or structure(s) or compensate the surface owner.[5 ]

(Footnote added). In addition, Permit Revision Application 33, under the heading "Gas Lines," states that "[m]ining beneath gas pipelines will be handled per common law practices in accordance with West Virginia codes and regulations and severance deeds between the pipeline owner and [Marshall Coal]."

Texas Eastern and Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. ("Columbia Gas"),6 who also has pipelines crossing Marshall Coal's reserves, both objected to the WVDEP's approval of Marshall Coal's Permit Revision Application 33. Accordingly, a public hearing was held on October 23, 2008. Thereafter, WVDEP approved Marshall Coal's Permit Revision Application 33 on November 25, 2008, expressly finding that the revision was "accurate and complete and all of the requirements of Article 3, Chapter 22, and the Regulations have been complied with." Texas Eastern then appealed the WVDEP's approval of Permit Revision Application 33 to the West Virginia Surface Mine Board ("SMB"), asserting, in relevant part, that Marshall Coal's Permit Revision Application 33 was deficient because it failed to: (1) demonstrate

807 S.E.2d 807

that Marshall Coal would conduct its mining operation is a way that would protect Texas Eastern's pipelines and (2) specify in its subsidence control plan the measures that would be taken to protect Texas Eastern's pipelines from material damage. Columbia Gas also appealed the WVDEP's approval of Marshall Coal's Permit Revision Application 33.7

Columbia Gas also had earlier appealed to the SMB a permit revision application by Consolidation Coal Co. ("Consol Appeals")8 that shared "common, dispositive questions of law"9 with the appeals of Marshall Coal's Permit Revision Application 33 at issue in the case sub judice ("Marshall Coal Appeals"). Accordingly, in order to avoid duplication of efforts by the SMB and the parties with respect to the Marshall Coal Appeals, the parties to the Marshall Coal Appeals stipulated that the legal proceedings in the Consol Appeals would govern the Marshall Coal Appeals.

The SMB's order dated February 18, 2009, in the Consol Appeals, addressed cross summary judgment motions on two issues: (1) whether WVDEP erred in issuing permits to Consolidation Coal Co. ("Consol") without requiring Consol to specify the measures it would take to protect Columbia Gas' pipelines in advance of mining and (2) whether Consol had an obligation to correct or repair material damage to Columbia Gas' pipelines regardless of the parties' common law property rights. As to the first issue, pre-mining protection of gas pipelines, the SMB denied Columbia Gas' motion for summary judgment and granted Consol's summary judgment motion. The SMB based its decision upon its finding that the WVDEP properly interpreted state regulations to require that subsidence control plans contained in permit applications describe the measures to be taken to either mitigate subsidence damages to pipelines prior to mining or to remedy subsidence damage caused by mining, but do not require mine operators to describe both. As to post-mining subsidence-induced damage to pipelines, the SMB...

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5 practice notes
  • Lawyer Disciplinary Bd. v. Sidiropolis, No. 17-1134
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 7 Junio 2019
    ...list is demonstrative and not exclusive. See, e.g. , Texas E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. , 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (observing that "the phrase ‘include, but not be limited to[,]’ ... indicates that the examples given are demonstrative, not exclu......
  • W.Va. Consol. Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Clark, No. 20-0350
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Junio 2021
    ...39. Id. (emphasis added). 40. Tex. E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep't of Env't Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation, 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (citing Postlewait v. City of Wheeling, 231 W. Va. 1, 4, 743 S.E.2d 309, 312 (2012) (observing "Black's Law Dictionary (9th Ed......
  • W. Va. Consol. Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Clark, No. 20-0350
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Junio 2021
    ...Id. (emphasis added).40 Tex. E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep't of Env't Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation , 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (citing Postlewait v. City of Wheeling , 231 W. Va. 1, 4, 743 S.E.2d 309, 312 (2012) ) (observing "Black's Law Dictionary (9th Ed. ......
  • Chevron United Statesa., Inc. v. John Robert Bonar & John & Werner Law Offices, PLLC, No. 16-1213
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Febrero 2018
    ...See, e.g., Texas E. Transmission, LP v. West Virginia Dep't of Envtl. Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation, ___ W. Va. ___, ___ n.18, 807 S.E.2d 802, 810 n.18 (2017) ("Neither the order of the SMB nor the circuit court's order discusses W. Va. CSR § 38-2-3.32.a. However, insofar as the Rule ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Lawyer Disciplinary Bd. v. Sidiropolis, No. 17-1134
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 7 Junio 2019
    ...list is demonstrative and not exclusive. See, e.g. , Texas E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. , 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (observing that "the phrase ‘include, but not be limited to[,]’ ... indicates that the examples given are demonstrative, not exclu......
  • W.Va. Consol. Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Clark, No. 20-0350
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Junio 2021
    ...39. Id. (emphasis added). 40. Tex. E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep't of Env't Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation, 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (citing Postlewait v. City of Wheeling, 231 W. Va. 1, 4, 743 S.E.2d 309, 312 (2012) (observing "Black's Law Dictionary (9th Ed......
  • W. Va. Consol. Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Clark, No. 20-0350
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Junio 2021
    ...Id. (emphasis added).40 Tex. E. Transmission, LP v. W. Va. Dep't of Env't Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation , 240 W. Va. 131, 143, 807 S.E.2d 802, 814 (2017) (citing Postlewait v. City of Wheeling , 231 W. Va. 1, 4, 743 S.E.2d 309, 312 (2012) ) (observing "Black's Law Dictionary (9th Ed. ......
  • Chevron United Statesa., Inc. v. John Robert Bonar & John & Werner Law Offices, PLLC, No. 16-1213
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 14 Febrero 2018
    ...See, e.g., Texas E. Transmission, LP v. West Virginia Dep't of Envtl. Prot., Div. of Mining & Reclamation, ___ W. Va. ___, ___ n.18, 807 S.E.2d 802, 810 n.18 (2017) ("Neither the order of the SMB nor the circuit court's order discusses W. Va. CSR § 38-2-3.32.a. However, insofar as the Rule ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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