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Citizens Against Longwall Mining v. Colt LLC

March 1, 2006

CITIZENS AGAINST LONGWALL MINING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COLT LLC AND IEC (MONTGOMERY) LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Colt LLC's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (d/e 11) and Defendant IEC (Montgomery) LLC's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) (d/e 14). Plaintiff Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, filed the instant Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (d/e 1) in November 2005. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment and injunction barring Defendants Colt LLC (Colt) and IEC (Montgomery) LLC (IEC) from using the longwall method of mining to extract coal from certain property located within Montgomery County, Illinois. Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) & (7). For the reasons set forth below, the case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff, however, is granted leave to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the allegations of the Complaint. Colt is a West Virginia limited liability company engaged in the business of coal mining. Colt's members are domiciled in West Virginia. IEC is an Illinois limited liability company engaged in the business of coal mining. Its members are domiciled in Alabama. In December 2003, IEC acquired the coal and appurtenant mining rights to approximately 85,000 acres in Montgomery County. In December 2004, Colt executed a purchase agreement to acquire coal and appurtenant mining rights to approximately 120,000 acres in Montgomery County.

The Complaint alleges that both IEC and Colt have expressed intent to mine their coal in Montgomery County using the longwall method of mining. The Complaint explains longwall mining as follows: a method of coal removal in which subsidence of the surface is planned and intentional. Longwall mining is a high extraction method of coal mining in which a high-powered cutting machine shears away all coal between the floor and ceiling, leaving no support pillars. Movable roof supports advance as the bed is cut, allowing the roof to fall as the mining progresses.

Complaint, ¶ 10. The Complaint contrasts longwall mining with the standard method of mining coal, which it describes as the room-and-pillar method. The Complaint asserts that, during room-and-pillar mining, surface support remains in the form of coal pillars.

CALM is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois. The Complaint alleges that CALM's "members include persons owning real estate in Montgomery County, Illinois," and specifically, that its "members include persons owning surface rights over mineral estates that Defendants have expressed an intent to subside using the longwall method and who would be injured by subsidence damage to their property and to the environment." Complaint, ¶¶ 3, 17. The Complaint alleges that, from 1907 to 1921, property owners in Montgomery County deeded coal rights to various persons or companies (severance deeds). These deeds severed the ownership of the surface estate from the ownership of the mineral estate. Both interests were transferred separately over time to the respective current owners. Plaintiff argues that the severance deeds do not give the mineral owner the right to engage in longwall mining. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment to that effect, as well as a permanent injunction.

ANALYSIS

Colt moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III ripeness or standing and under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7) for failure to join necessary parties. IEC moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), asserting that the Complaint fails to satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because the Rule 12(b)(1) issues raised in the Motions to Dismiss relate to the Court's jurisdiction over the entire case, the Court will address those issues first and then turn to Colt's Rule 12(b)(7) issue. As set forth below, Colt's Motion is allowed, in part, and denied, in part. IEC's Motion is allowed.

A. Justiciability

Under Article III of the United States Constitution, a party seeking to invoke federal court jurisdiction must present an actual case or controversy, a requirement that is referred to as the concept of justiciability. See Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95 (1968). The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that a plaintiff has "'a personal stake in the outcome' in order to 'assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues' necessary for the proper resolution of constitutional questions." City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101 (1983). Under the case or controversy requirement, a plaintiff seeking to invoke the power of the federal court bears the burden of demonstrating: (1) an "injury in fact -- an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical;" (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained; and (3) that a favorable decision likely will redress the injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)(internal quotations and citations omitted). Thus, the "case or controversy" requirement is the basis for a number of interrelated doctrines, including standing and ripeness. See Smith v. Wisconsin Dept. of Agric., 23 F.3d 1134, 1141 (7th Cir. 1994).

Colt asserts that the case or controversy requirement is not met in the present case because CALM lacks standing and the matter is not ripe. If subject matter jurisdiction is not evident on the face of the complaint, a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) is analyzed as any other motion to dismiss, by assuming for purposes of the motion that the allegations in the complaint are true. However, if the complaint is formally sufficient but the defendant contends that there is "in fact no subject matter jurisdiction, the movant may use affidavits and other material to support the motion. The burden of proof on a 12(b)(1) issue is on the party asserting jurisdiction. And the court is free to weigh the evidence to determine whether jurisdiction has been established." United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chemical Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted).

The Court turns first to the question of standing. Colt challenges the sufficiency of Plaintiff's allegations; thus, the challenge is facial, and the Court assumes for purposes of the Motion that the allegations in the Complaint are true. The Complaint alleges, in relevant part, that CALM's "members include persons owning surface rights over mineral estates that Defendants have expressed an intent to subside using the longwall method and who would be injured by subsidence damage to their property and to the environment." Complaint, ¶ 17. Colt asserts that Plaintiff fails to allege that it owns an interest in mineral or surface real estate in Montgomery County or that it can stand in the place of such owners. Thus, Colt's challenge goes to the injury-in-fact requirement, i.e., whether CALM alleges an invasion of a legally protected interest.

"When a plaintiff is an association, the association has Article III standing to represent the interests of its members if the individuals have standing in their own right; the interests represented are germane to the association's purpose; and the relief sought does not require the participation of the individual members." Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Assoc. v. Environmental Protection Agency, 410 F.3d 964, ...


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