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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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