Castle Valley Special Service District v. Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining

938 P.2d 248 (1996)

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Castle Valley Special Service District v. Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining

Utah Supreme Court
938 P.2d 248 (1996)

Facts

A mining operation applied to the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining (board) (defendant) for a significant revision to its underground coal mining permit. The revision would have allowed the operation to mine a new coal seam within its existing permit area. Castle Valley Special Service District and several other organizations (collectively, water users) (plaintiffs) relied on water from two springs located near the mining operation. The water users opposed the expansion of the mining operation on the grounds that the existing work had diminished the quality and quantity of their water. Eventually, the permit was approved. In affirming a lower division’s approval of the permit, the board found that the new mining operation was hydrologically separate from the existing mining operations. The water users had argued that the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) required the mining operation to identify or provide water resources to replace spring water that had been or might be diverted due to the operation. The water users argued that this was the case even if no damage had yet occurred because the SMCRA required preventive measures. Even if the SMCRA did not require preventive measures, the water users argued, the SMCRA still required the mining operation to identify water-replacement sources. The board rejected this argument, concluding that that SMCRA provision was inapplicable because the SMCRA did not require preventive measures and because there was no connection between the water users’ water source and the mining operation. The water users appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

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