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BOWIE COAL COMPANY PETITION (06/27/51)

June 27, 1951

BOWIE COAL COMPANY PETITION


Appeal, No. 123, March T., 1951 from order of Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County, Dec. T., 1949, No. 108, in re Petition of Bowie Coal Company etc. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Harry F. Stambaugh, Special Counsel, with him Emrys G. Francis and Robert E. Woodside, Jr., Attorney General, for appellant.

Matthew A. Crawford, with him Thomas D. Stauffer and John W. Wherry, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell and Ladner, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 368 Pa. Page 104]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

The question involved in this appeal is a very narrow one: Did the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County or of Dauphin County have jurisdiction of the petition of the Bowie Coal Company?

Six partners trading as Bowie Coal Company are and had been for many years engaged in the mining of bituminous coal by the open pit mining method. On August 29, 1945, they registered with the Department of Mines. Their registration was duly accepted and approved by the Secretary of Mines, and since then they have continued open pit mining, and have complied with all the requirements of the Bituminous Coal Open Pit Mining Conservation Act of May 31, 1945, PL. 1198 as amended, 52 P.S. § 1396, with respect to renewal of their registration. They operate twenty-two separate mining operations in three counties: Mercer, Venango and Butler.

On June 28, 1948, the Secretary of Mines sent them an order or directive to file a separate bond and pay a separate filing fee for each county in which they were operating. The order was repeated on July 15, 1948. On August 20, 1948, the Secretary issued a new order or directive requiring them to file a separate bond and pay a separate fee for each operation in each county. They filed a petition on November 7, 1949, in the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County praying for relief from the orders and directives of the Secretary of Mines. The court thereupon granted a rule to show cause, returnable December 19, 1949. On January 18, 1950, the Secretary of Mines filed a petition raising a preliminary question of jurisdiction as to the operators' petition of November 7, 1949. The court granted a rule to show cause and after an answer and

[ 368 Pa. Page 105]

    argument, the court discharged the rule (which was granted to the Secretary of Mines) to show cause why the operators' petition should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. From this order, the Secretary of Mines took this appeal.

The Secretary contends that the sole right of appeal by the operators from the orders of the Secretary of Mines was to the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County under the Administrative Agency Law of June 4, 1945, P.L. 1388, 71 P.S. § 1710.41. The operators contend that the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County has jurisdiction of their petition under the provisions of Section 14 of the Act of May 31, 1945, P.L. 1198, as amended by the Act of May 23, 1949, P.L. 1730, 52 P.S. § 1396.14. The pertinent provisions of Section 14 of said Act are as follows: "Any operator or landowner, who shall be aggrieved by any administrative regulation, directive or order of the Secretary of Mines or of the Secretary of Forests and Waters or any other administrative agency making application of the provisions of this act, may file a petition in the court of common pleas of the county where the land is located,*fn* alleging therein the action complained of and praying for remedy thereof, and the said court shall proceed therein by rule or rules upon the proper administrative officer, body or authority to show cause why the petitioner should not have the remedy prayed for by his, her, or its petition...."

In the light of this clear language, why doesn't the Court of Mercer County have jurisdiction?The appellant contends that this particular provision in Section 14 of the amendment of May 23, 1949, supra, is prospective only and therefore cannot apply to the orders or directives of the Secretary ...


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