DOCKET NO.: 80-231
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
CITATION: 452 US 314 (1981)
ARGUED: Feb 23, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1981
G. Daniel Kelly, Jr. - on behalf of the Appellees
G. Daniel Kelley, Jr. - for appellees
Peter Buscemi - on behalf of the Appellants
Facts of the case
This case Hodel v. Indiana initiated revising of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 that contradicted with the principles of the Fifth Amendment.
The plaintiff, the State of Indiana and several of its officials, the Indiana Coal Association, several enterprises of mining industry, and others, brought the suit with the aim to cancel “prime-farmland” and some other unconstitutional prescriptions of the document.
These rules established requirements for external mining operations performed farmland that was used as cropland before that. These provisions sat up the principle that the applicant for a license for mining on farmland should be able to restore the farm territory in the relevant time after the end of works, including its previous fertility. The other obligations were the restoration to its near past contour, the obligation to remain topsoil separately and avoid its usage during reclamation, submitting of the reclamation plans. The Act also empowered the State to control conditions of work process of coal mining companies and implement the administrative procedure regarding the penalties for breach of the legal rules.
The appellants brought a claim in Federal District Court, affirming that these legal norms infringed the Commerce Clause, the Equal Protection and Due Process rights of the Fifth and the Tenth Amendments, and the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court upheld the mentioned Act were unconstitutional and breached the fundamental guarantee against involuntary deprivation of private possessions with only compensation for it.
The case was passed to the Supreme Court of the USA initiated by the application of Hodel, minister of internal affairs of the USA. The case study underlines that the judges stated that the act did not breach the Commerce Clause. It established some obligated guides for mining conduction with the purpose to facilitate the production of coal on the interstate level, not impacting negatively on the agriculture, the environment, the public interest, and safety.
The case brief reflected that judgment confirmed that the legal document didn`t contradict with the Tenth Amendment as it regulated the external mining of private enterprises and didn`t influence on the States affairs. The court in Hodel v Indiana established its point that the provisions regarding the restoration of farmland didn`t contradict with the guarantees of equal protection and due process. The judgment confirmed that other provisions did not legalize the deprivation of the private property without just compensation and were in accordance with the Fifth Amendment.
Moreover, the case brief underlined that appellees' claim regarding the implementation of penalty for executors in case of non-adherence of standards of mining operations didn`t make any infractions of their guarantee to due process.
Hence, the Supreme Court upheld that the legal act was appropriate to the Constitution, therefore the previous decision should be denied and revised.
Media for Hodel v. Indiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 23, 1981 in Hodel v. Indiana
Byron R. White:
Suppose that you go in and you say, I want a permit to mine, but I'll demonstrate to you that I have no... that this, I just can't do it, and if the government denies you a permit, what it's saying to you is that you cannot mine your coal.
Warren E. Burger:
We will proceed to hear arguments in the related case of the Secretary v. Indiana.
Mr. Buscemi, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:
This case is much the same as the Virginia case, and with respect to at least the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause, I'm pretty much content to rely on what has already been said and what's said in the brief.
This case is here on direct appeal from the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The statutory provisions challenged here are different and far more numerous than those invalidated by the Virginia District Court, and I'd like to begin by describing briefly the portions of the Act that are at issue here.
The first group of statutory provisions are the so-called prime farmland provisions.
Those are six subsections of the Act that impose special requirements where a mine operator proposes to undertake surface mining operations on lands that satisfy the Secretary of Agriculture's definition of prime farmland... and this is something that tends to be ignored in the District Court's consideration of the case and in appellees' brief... that historically have been used for intensive agricultural purposes.
So this is just not some land that someone classifies as prime farmland on the basis of a soil sample.
This is land that has been used intensively for agricultural purposes.
William H. Rehnquist:
And it's your position that Congress under the Commerce Clause can freeze that classification?
If it was once used as prime farmland, it's going to be prime farmland?
That's not what the statute does, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.
The statute only says that if surface mining is undertaken on prime farmland, then before the permit is issued the operator has to to demonstrate that his technological capability to restore that land to equivalent or higher levels of yield as non-mined prime farmland in the surrounding area under equivalent levels of management.
So the statute simply says that if you've got prime farmland and it's been used as prime farmland, and you propose to surface mine it, when you finish you've got to put it back into the same productive condition that it was in before.
Byron R. White:
And to keep it that way for five years?
There is the provision that there has to be revegetation and that revegetation has to exist for a period of five years.
There is some question about how the Act is interpreted and applied in this respect.
The Secretary issued a regulation requiring the growing of row crops.
That regulation was invalidated by the District Court in the District of Columbia.
The Secretary has appealed that to the D.C. Circuit, but of course there is no way of knowing right now what the D.C. Circuit will do or whether the new Administration will continue all of these policies, including this one.
So that, at least, as for right now, the row crop regulation is not in effect and all we're talking about is revegetation.
Now, the operator will also have to show that he can meet the soil reconstruction standards for prime farmland.
They require that the different topsoil layers be removed separately and restored separately.
There are also a number of other generally applicable provisions, that is, not applicable only to prime farmland, that were challenged in the Indiana case and not in the Virginia case.
They include the general requirement that topsoil be removed separately and the general requirement for the submission of reclamation plans before the beginning of surface mining.
These plans are supposed to tell the regulatory authority, whether it's a state authority or the federal authority, what the premining use of the land is, what the postmining proposed use is, and describe the methods by which the postmining use will be achieved.
And finally there's a challenge in the Indiana case to Sections 522(a), (c), and (d) of the Act, also not challenged in the Virginia case, that involve the establishment of procedures for designating land as unsuitable for surface mining.
Section 522(e), which is the statute that prohibits mining within specified areas of roads, schools, parks, and churches, and so on, was also challenged in the Indiana case as was the civil penalty provision.