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PENNSYLVANIA COAL MINING ASSOCIATION ET AL. v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/22/82)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 22, 1982.

PENNSYLVANIA COAL MINING ASSOCIATION ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES ET AL., RESPONDENTS. KEYSTONE BITUMINOUS COAL ASSOCIATION ET AL., PETITIONERS V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES ET AL., RESPONDENTS

Original Jurisdiction Appeal in cases of Pennsylvania Coal Mining Association, Sunbeam Coal Corporation, West Freedom Mining Corporation v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources; Clifford L. Jones, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources; their agents and all others acting with them or on their behalf, and in case of Keystone Bituminous Coal Association; The Bethlehem Mines Corporation; Consolidation Coal Company; Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation; The North American Coal Corporation; Republic Steel Corporation; Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company; United States Steel Corporation; and Charles H. Muse, Jr., an individual v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources; Clifford L. Jones, individually and in his capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources.

COUNSEL

Steven L. Friedman, with him Stephen C. Braverman, Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Levy, for petitioners, Pennsylvania Coal Mining Association, Sunbeam Coal Corporation, and West Freedom Mining Corporation.

Henry McC. Ingram, with him Thomas C. Reed, Rose, Schmidt, Dixon, Hasley, Whyte & Hardesty, for petitioners, Keystone Bituminous Coal Association; The Bethlehem Mines Corporation; Consolidation Coal Company; Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation; The North American Coal Corporation; Republic Steel Corporation; Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company; United States Steel Corporation; and Charles H. Muse, Jr., an individual.

James D. Morris, Assistant Attorney General, with him Douglas R. Blazey, Assistant Attorney General, for respondents.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Mencer, Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Craig. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Mencer and Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Crumlish

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 491]

In this consolidated action, the Petitioners*fn1 have filed petitions and amended petitions for review in the the nature of complaints in equity*fn2 seeking to enjoin the Respondents*fn3 from submitting or resubmitting a state program of surface coal mining regulation to the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior (Federal Secretary) in accordance with the Federal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).*fn4 The Respondents have filed preliminary objections. We dismiss the amended petitions as moot.

Shortly after SMCRA's passage, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted a number of laws regulating

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 492]

    coal mining in the Commonwealth.*fn5 In addition, a comprehensive set of implementing regulations was prepared and subsequently approved by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). The Petitioners requested this Court to, inter alia, enjoin the Department of Environmental Resources (DER) from: 1) submitting or resubmitting to the federal government a state surface mining program as provided for under SMCRA; 2) submitting implementing regulations to the EQB; and 3) taking further action to enforce a permanent state surface mining program.

By order of this Court dated November 26, 1980, Respondents were enjoined from submitting to the federal government a revised regulatory program*fn6 "until such time that the judicial challenges to the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act . . . and regulations promulgated thereunder are finally adjudicated but in no event longer than (1) one year. . . ." This injunction was subsequently modified to prohibit the Respondents from enforcing a state program of surface mining regulation identical to and based upon SMCRA, the constitutionality of which was then on appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Following the expiration of the preliminary injunction, the

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 493]

Commonwealth, on January 25, 1982, submitted to the Federal Secretary revised statutes and regulations as part of its program resubmission. On July 30, 1982, the Commonwealth was granted primary jurisdiction to administer its coal mining regulatory program.*fn7

There is no longer a judicable controversy. The constitutionality of SMCRA has been litigated.*fn8 The Commonwealth has been granted primacy, hence there is no longer the threat of confusion or undue burden allegedly associated with joint federal and state regulation. Finally, the Petitioners' request has been satisfied: one year's breathing room for Pennsylvania's coal mining industry. No actual controversy still exists; thus, the amended petitions for review must be dismissed as moot.

Order

It is hereby ordered that the amended petitions for review in the nature of complaints in equity in the above-captioned matters are dismissed as moot.

Judges Mencer and Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.

Disposition

Amended Petitions in nature of Complaints in Equity dismissed as moot.


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