Wyodak Res. Dev. Corp. v. United States, No. 13-5049 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, 30 U.S.C. 1201, imposes a fee to underwrite the costs of restoring lands damaged by mining. The fee is 28 cents per ton of coal produced by surface mining and the lesser of 12 cents per ton produced by underground mining, or 10 percent of the value of the coal at the mine. The reclamation fee for lignite coal is the lesser of eight cents per ton or two percent of the value of the coal at the mine. Lignite coal produces less than 8,300 British thermal units per pound, less energy than produced by bituminous, subbituminous, and anthracite coal. In the area of Wyodak’s strip mine near Gillette, Wyoming, coal transitions from subbituminous to lignite in the seams. The end product of the mine’s process is a mixture of subbituminous and lignite coal. Wyodak paid the higher reclamation fee for non-lignite coal. In 2005, Wyodak‘s consultant estimated that 12 percent of its coal was lignite and 88 percent was higher quality. The Office of Surface Mining denied a requested refund. The Claims Court first rejected claims not arising within six years of the filing date, then denied relief, holding that the fee is on coal as extracted. Because the BTU value of the blend was higher than 8300 BTUs per pound, Wyodak was not entitled to a refund for any lignite in the mix. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, noting that Wyodak had the burden of proving entitlement to and the amount of any refund.