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COA affirms ruling in favor of mining company, DNR

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the decision to release a surface mining reclamation bond obtained by a mining company, finding the reclamation requirements of the Indiana Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act have been satisfied.

Squaw Creek Coal Co. was formed partly by Alcoa Inc. to mine coal from the Squaw Creek Mine. The coal was used to power Alcoa’s nearby aluminum production facility. In the 1960s and 1970s, Alcoa used abandoned haul roads in the mine to dispose of waste generated at its facility in coordination with the Indiana Department of Health. SCCC later obtained a permit to mine more of Squaw Creek Mine, and secured reclamation of the land with a bond.

At a public hearing on whether to release portions of the bond after active mining ended, concerns were raised about the disposal of Alcoa’s waste. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources approved the bond release, finding the threat of pollution wasn’t the type of impact anticipated by the bond requirements. An administrative law judge affirmed the decision to release parts of the bond, but vacated the DNR decision to affirm the release on other portions.

SCCC petitioned the trial court for judicial review, and the trial court reversed. Bill Musgrave, a former coal miner, appealed the trial court order in favor of SCCC and the DNR on SCCC’s petition for judicial review.

Musgrave filed a motion to dismiss SCCC’s petition for judicial review for lack of jurisdiction because the company did not serve summonses upon the NRC, the DNR, and the Indiana attorney general, and it didn’t pay the Marion Superior Court filing fee. The trial court denied the motion, which the appellate judges upheld. In Bill Musgrave v. Squaw Creek Coal Co. and Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, No. 49A05-1104-MI-164, Judge L. Mark Bailey pointed out that the Indiana Administrative Orders and Procedures Act makes no mention of a filing fee and the Marion Superior Court prescribed no filing fee in this case. The judges also found SCCC’s process and service of its petition to be sufficient.

Musgrave is not collaterally estopped from challenging the DNR’s decision to release the reclamation bond on Permit S-008, as DNR and SCCC had argued, because the jurisdictional issue regarding Alcoa’s hazardous wastes was not necessarily adjudicated in the prior proceeding.

The trial court did not err by reversing the ALJ’s order and remanding for entry of judgment in favor of SCCC and the DNR. There is no genuine issue of material fact that SCCC met the Phase III release requirements of the Indiana Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, wrote Bailey, and SCCC also satisfied the requirements of the Indiana Administrative code and its own permit.

 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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