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Haydo v. Amerikohl Mining Inc.

argued: June 15, 1987.

DONALD H. HAYDO AND PATRICIA A. HAYDO, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
AMERIKOHL MINING, INC.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, D.C. Civil No. 85-1524.

Seitz and Mansmann, Circuit Judges, and DeBevoise, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Mansmann

Opinion OF THE COURT

MANSMANN, Circuit Judge

This appeal presents the question of whether there is subject matter jurisdiction in the federal district court to hear a claim for damages arising from an alleged violation by an operator of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act ("SMCRA"), as amended, 30 U.S.C. 1201, et seq. where a state has submitted and the Secretary of the Interior has approved a program for state regulation as contemplated by the Act. We find that there is no federal jurisdiction, and we will affirm the district court's dismissal of the action.

I.

Donald and Patricia Haydo brought this action for damages for the loss of a water well allegedly due to the coal exploration program of the defendant, Amerikohl Mining, Inc. The following facts are alleged in the complaint. On January 18, 1984 the defendant Amerikohl Mining, Inc. ("Amerikohl") commenced coal exploration activities on the Haydo property under an assigned coal lease and option agreement between the plaintiffs and Amerikohl Land Company. The plaintiffs assert that, prior to the defendant's drilling operations, the plaintiff's well had produced potable water of good quality and quantity for 35 years. Shortly after the drilling began, the quantity of water produced by the plaintiff's well diminished, and by June, 1984 the well had run dry. The plaintiffs demanded that Amerikohl replace their water supply. The demand was refused, whereupon the plaintiffs filed this action for damages in federal court.

II.

The Haydos complained that the defendant's exploratory drilling adversely affected their water supply and violated the environmental protection standards prescribed by Section 515 of the SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1265. The complaint alleged that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, administering the SMCRA under a program approved by the Secretary of the Interior, promulgated regulations pursuant to Section 515 of the SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1265, concerning the reclamation of the prevailing hydrologic balance. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant's operations contravened both the state regulations and the SMCRA.

After the time for discovery, the defendant moved for dismissal of the action on the ground of the assertedly exclusive jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania courts. As an alternative ground for dismissal the defendant argued that the SMCRA does not prescribe duties for operators and does not govern exploratory drilling of the type performed on the plaintiffs' land. The district court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint in accordance with the opinion in Laurel Pipe Line Co. v. Bethlehem Mines Corp., 624 F. Supp. 538, 540 (W.D. Pa. 1986) (the SMCRA affords exclusive jurisdiction to states administering the Act under an approved program).

We have jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, over this appeal from the final order of the district court dismissing the complaint.

III.

The defendant's theory that jurisdiction is exclusive in the courts of Pennsylvania constitutes a facial attack on the complaint by means of a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. To the extent that the defendant argues that the activity complained of is not governed by the language of the statute, the motion may be treated alternatively as one pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Under these unusual circumstances, the procedure would be the same in reviewing either motion: the allegations of the complaint are considered as true so that the disposition of the motion is purely a legal determination. Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. ...


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