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U.S. Supreme Court

Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining, 452 U.S. 264 (1981)

Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Association, Inc.

No. 79-1538

Argued February 23, 1981

Decided June 15, 1981*

452 U.S. 264


A preenforcement challenge to the constitutionality of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (Act) was presented in a Federal District Court action wherein the plaintiffs were an association of coal producers engaged in surface coal mining operations in Virginia, some of its member coal companies, individual landowners, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a town (hereinafter appellees). The Act is designed to establish a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining operations. The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) has primary responsibility for administering the Act by promulgating regulations and enforcing its provisions. A two-stage program for the regulation of surface mining -- an interim phase and a permanent phase -- is established; and environmental protection performance standards are prescribed. Ultimately, a regulatory program is to be adopted for each State, either by approval of a State's proposed permanent program that meets federal minimum standards or by adoption of a federal program for any State that chooses not to submit a program. Enforcement of the permanent programs rests either with the participating State or with the Secretary as to nonparticipating States. The District Court, although rejecting appellees' Commerce Clause, equal protection, and substantive due process challenges to the Act, held that the Act violates the Tenth Amendment, that various provisions of the Act effect an uncompensated taking of private property in violation of the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and that some of the Act's enforcement provisions violate procedural due process requirements.

Held: In the context of a facial challenge, the Act is constitutional. Pp. 452 U. S. 275-305.

Page 452 U. S. 265

(a) The Act does not violate the Commerce Clause as regulating the use of private lands, rather than the interstate commerce effects of surface coal mining. In view of the legislative record, which includes extended hearings concerning the effects of surface mining on the Nation's environment and economy and the need for uniform minimum nationwide standards, it cannot be said that Congress did not have a rational basis for its findings, set out in the Act itself, that surface coal mining has substantial effects on interstate commerce. And the Act's regulatory scheme is reasonably related to the goals Congress sought to accomplish -- the Act's restrictions on the practices of mine operators all serving to control the environmental and other adverse effects of surface coal mining. Pp. 452 U. S. 275-283.

(b) Sections 515(d) and (e) of the Act, which prescribe performance standards on "steep slopes," including a requirement that an operator return the site to its "approximate original contour," and which authorize variances from the contour requirement, do not violate any Tenth Amendment limitation on congressional exercise of the commerce power as interfering with the States' "traditional governmental function" of regulating land use. The steep-slope provisions govern only the activities of coal mine operators who are private individuals and businesses, and do not regulate the "States as States." Cf. National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U. S. 833. Appellees' contentions that the threat of federal usurpation of their regulatory roles coerces the States into enforcing the Act, and that the Act regulates the States as States because it establishes mandatory minimum federal standards, are without merit, since the Tenth Amendment does not limit congressional power to preempt or displace state regulation of private activities affecting interstate commerce. Moreover, Congress does not invade areas reserved to the States by the Tenth Amendment simply because it exercises its authority under the Commerce Clause in a manner that displaces the States' exercise of their police powers. Pp. 452 U. S. 283-293.

(c) The issue whether the Act's steep-slope provisions and § 522(e), which prohibits mining in certain locations, violate the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment is not ripe for judicial resolution. Because appellees' taking claim arose in the context of a facial challenge, it presented no concrete controversy concerning either application of the Act to particular surface mining operations or its effect on specific parcels of land. And the "mere enactment" of the Act does not constitute a taking, since it does not deny an owner economically viable use of his land, the Act, except for § 522(e), neither categorically prohibiting surface coal mining nor purporting to regulate alternative uses to which coal-bearing lands may be put. Pp. 452 U. S. 293-297.

Page 452 U. S. 266

(d) The provisions of §§ 521, 525, and 526 of the Act pertaining to the Secretary's issuance of orders for immediate cessation of a surface mining operation determined to be in violation of the Act do not violate the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Summary administrative action resulting in deprivation of a significant property interest without a prior hearing is justified when, as here, it responds to situations in which swift action is necessary to protect the public health and safety. The objective criteria for the issuance of immediate cessation orders, established by the Act, and the Secretary's implementing regulations, are specific enough to control governmental action and reduce the risk of erroneous deprivation, and mine operators are afforded a prompt and adequate postdeprivation administrative hearing and an opportunity for judicial review. And the District Court erred in reducing to 24 hours the statutorily prescribed 5-day period for the Secretary's response to mine operators' requests for temporary relief from an immediate cessation order. The record does not show that the Secretary has not responded or will not respond in less than five days, which is the statutory maximum, and appellees have not demonstrated that they have been adversely affected by the 5-day period in a particular case or that it is generally unreasonable. In addition, no evidence was introduced to show that a shorter reply period is administratively feasible. Pp. 452 U. S. 298-303.

(e) Appellees' due process challenge to the Act's provisions for the imposition of civil penalties for violations of cessation orders is premature. Appellees did not allege that they, or any one of them, have had civil penalties assessed against them, and there was no finding that any of appellee coal mine operators have been affected or harmed by any of the statutory procedures for the assessment and collection of fines. Pp. 452 U. S. 303-304.

483 F.Supp. 425, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,filed a concurring statement, post, p. 452 U. S. 305. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 452 U. S. 305. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 452 U. S. 307.

Page 452 U. S. 268

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