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U.S. Supreme Court

Cal. Coastal Comm'n v. Granite Rock Co., 480 U.S. 572 (1987)

California Coastal Comm'n v. Granite Rock Co.

No. 86-1200

Argued December 2, 1986

Decided March 24, 1987

480 U.S. 572


The Mining Act of 1872 authorizes a private citizen to enter federal lands to explore for mineral deposits, to perfect a mining claim, and to secure a patent to the land by complying with the requirements of the Act and regulations promulgated thereunder. Appellee Granite Rock Co. holds unpatented mining claims on federally owned lands in a national forest located in California. In accordance with federal regulations, Granite Rock obtained approval from the Forest Service in 1981 of its 6-year plan for mining limestone on the lands, and began to mine shortly thereafter. In 1983, the California Coastal Commission (Commission), acting pursuant to the California Coastal Act (CCA), instructed Granite Rock to apply for a coastal development permit for any mining undertaken after the date of the Commission's letter. Under the CCA, the Commission is the State's coastal zone management program for purposes of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), which provides for financial assistance to States for the development of coastal zone management programs and which defines a State's coastal zone so as to exclude

"lands the use of which is by law subject solely to the discretion of or which is held in trust by the Federal Government, its officers or agents."

Granite Rock filed suit in Federal District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief on the ground that the Commission's permit requirement was preempted by Forest Service Regulations, by the Mining Act of 1872, and by the CZMA. The court denied Granite Rock's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Commission's permit requirement, which enforced state environmental standards, was preempted by the Mining Act of 1872 and Forest Service regulations.


1. The case is not moot, even though Granite Rock's 6-year plan of operations expired during the course of the litigation. Because the Commission asserts that Granite Rock needed a Commission permit for work undertaken after the date of the Commission's letter, the Commission may require reclamation efforts to prevent river pollution resulting from the mining that has already occurred. Granite Rock disputes the Commission's authority to require such reclamation. Also, it is likely that

Page 480 U. S. 573

Granite Rock will submit new plans of operation in the future, and dispute would continue as to enforcement of the conditions of a Commission permit. This Court does not have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1264(2), because the Court of Appeals invalidated only the Commission's exercise of authority under the CGA, not any portion of the state statute itself, as is required under §1264(2). However, treating the jurisdictional statement as a petition for certiorari, the petition is granted. Pp. 480 U. S. 577-579.

2. Neither Forest Service regulations, nor federal land use statutes, nor the CZMA preempts the Commission's imposition of a permit requirement on operation of an unpatented mining claim in a national forest. Pp. 480 U. S. 579-594.

(a) The Property Clause of the Constitution -- which gives Congress plenary power to legislate the use of federal lands -- does not itself automatically conflict with all state regulation of federal lands. The question in this case is governed by the usual preemption analysis, whereby state law is preempted if Congress has evidenced an intent to occupy entirely a given field or, where Congress has not entirely displaced state regulation, if state law actually conflict with federal law.

(b) The Forest Service regulations, governing the use of unpatented mining claims on federal forest lands authorized by the Mining Act of 1872 (which expressed no legislative intent on the then rarely contemplated subject of environmental regulation), do not justify a facial challenge to all conditions that might be imposed by the Commission's permit requirement. It is appropriate to expect an administrative regulation to declare any intention to preempt state law with some specificity. The Forest Service regulations here not only are devoid of any expression of intent to preempt state law, but rather appear to assume that those submitting plans of operation will comply with state environmental protection laws. Pp. 480 U. S. 581-584.

(c) There is no merit to the contention that federal land management statutes -- the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act -- demonstrate a legislative intent to limit States to a purely advisory role in federal land management decisions, and that the Commission permit requirement is therefore preempted as an impermissible state land use regulation. Even if it is assumed (without deciding the issue) that the combination of those federal Acts preempts the extension of state land use plans to unpatented mining claims in national forest lands, the Commission asserts that it will use permit conditions to impose environmental regulation, not land use planning. Congress has indicated its understanding of land use planning and environmental regulation as distinct activities, and thus it is anomalous to maintain that Congress intended any state environmental regulation

Page 480 U. S. 574

of unpatented mining claims in national forests to be per se preempted as an impermissible exercise of state land use planning. In the present posture of this litigation, the Commission's identification of a possible set of permit conditions not preempted by federal law is sufficient to rebuff Granite Rock's facial challenge to the permit requirement. Pp. 480 U. S. 584-589.

(d) The CZMA, by excluding federal lands from its definition of the coastal zone, does not demonstrate a congressional intent to preempt any possible Commission permit requirement as applied to the mining of Granite Rock's unpatented claim. The CZMA's language and legislative history expressly disclaim an intent to automatically preempt all state regulation of activities on federal lands. Congress' statements indicate that it intended the CZMA not to be an independent cause of preemption except in cases of actual conflict between state and federal law. Pp. 480 U. S. 589-593.

768 F.2d 1077, reversed and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II of which POWELL and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 480 U. S. 594. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, J., joined, post, p. 480 U. S. 607.

Page 480 U. S. 575

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