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Campbell v. Oregon Department of State Lands

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

August 4, 2017

ROY CAMPBELL, an individual, CHAD MARMOLEJO, an individual, TOMMY PARTEE, an individual, and OREGON MINING ASSOCIATION, an Oregon nonprofit corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
OREGON DEPARTMENT OF STATE LANDS, OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, OREGON DEPARTMENT OF GEOLOGY AND MINERAL INDUSTRIES, JIM PAUL, in his official capacity as Director, Oregon Department of State Lands, PETE SHEPHERD, in his official capacity as Acting Director, Department of Environmental Quality, and BRAD AVY, in his official capacity as State Geologist, Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA SULLIVAN United States Magistrate Judge

         In this action, plaintiffs Roy Campbell, Chad Marmolejo, Tommy Partee, and the Oregon Mining Association challenge Oregon Senate Bill 838 (“SB 838”) as preempted under the Supremacy and Property Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, art. VI, cl. 2 & art. IV, § 3, cl. 2, by various federal mining laws. Defendants are Oregon state departments and their directors. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Docket No. 6). The Court heard oral argument on March 15, 2017 (Docket No. 17), and received supplemental briefing (Docket Nos. 18, 19).

         For the following reasons, the Court STAYS this action pending a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Bohmker v. Oregon, 16-35262 (9th Cir. 2017).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

          I. The Parties

         Each individual plaintiff is a “small-scale miner” with a “valid federal recorded mining claim.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 8, 16, 17, 26, 27 (Docket 1-1). Plaintiffs allege that it is “physically and financially infeasible to explore, develop, and extract minerals” from their mining claims “with non-motorized equipment such as a pick, shovel, and gold pan, ” id. ¶¶ 13, 24, 32, and “physically and financial infeasible” for plaintiff Marmolejo “to use hand tools . . . to explore and develop minerals . . . without the [use] of a motorized suction dredge, ” id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff Oregon Mining Association is a non-profit that “represents the interests of miners.” Id. ¶ 35.

         Defendant Oregon Department of State Lands administers, and has adopted rules to implement, SB 838. Id. ¶ 36. It has also “delineated Essential Salmonid Habitat governing the prohibition of mining under SB 838.” Id. Defendant Oregon Department of Environmental Quality administers permits governing small-scale placer and precious metal mining operations as to disposal of wastewater and extraction from streambeds. Id. ¶ 38. Defendant Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries regulates surface mining and administers mining permits. Id. ¶ 40. The individual defendants are the directors, or acting directors, of these departments, each sued in his official capacity. Id. ¶¶ 37, 39, 41.

         II. Senate Bill 838

         SB 838 places a five-year moratorium on motorized precious metal mining in and around the beds and banks of certain Oregon waterways, including waterways on federal land. Am. Compl. ¶ 1; see also Defs. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A (Docket No. 6) (text of SB 838). The moratorium applies to areas designated “essential indigenous anadromous salmonid habitat” or areas “containing . . . naturally reproducing populations of bull trout.” SB 838 § 2(1). Within these protected areas, SB 838 prohibits motorized precious metal mining from placer deposits of riverbanks or riverbeds, and from other placer deposits, where mining would cause removal or disturbance of streamside vegetation and impact water quality. Id. These mining activities are prohibited only up to the “line of ordinary high water, ” and “100 yards upland perpendicular to the line of ordinary high water” located “above the lowest extent of the spawning habitat” in a river containing an essential salmonid habitat or a reproducing bull trout population. Id. The moratorium went into effect January 2, 2016, and lasts until January 2, 2021. Id. §§ 3-4. SB 838 also limits the number of operating mining permits the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries may issue. Id. §2(3).

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs commenced this action in Oregon state court on July 27, 2016. Notice of Removal, Ex. 1, at 29-55 (Docket No. 1-1). In their original Complaint, plaintiffs sought declaratory judgment regarding SB 838 on two counts: “Preemption under the Supremacy and Property Clauses as a facial challenge, ” and “Preemption under the Supremacy and Property Clauses as applied to plaintiffs.” Id., at 45, 49. Plaintiffs also sought an injunction against defendants from enforcing SB 838. Id., at 54. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, dated the same day, asserting the same claims, and seeking the same relief. Id., Ex. 1, at 2-28. On August 19, 2016, defendants removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(a). (Docket No. 1). On September 23, 2016, defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Docket No. 6).

         The Court heard oral argument on defendants' Motion to Dismiss on March 15, 2017. (Docket No. 17). At the hearing, the Court raised whether it should stay this action pending the Ninth Circuit's decision in Bohmker v. Oregon, 16-35262 (9th Cir. 2017), which likewise concerns a constitutional preemption challenge to SB 838 based on federal mining law. The parties submitted supplemental briefing on whether to stay this action, and also on the viability of as-applied, as opposed to facial, preemption challenges. (Docket Nos. 18, 19).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court has the inherent power to stay its proceedings. Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936) (“[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants. How this can best be done calls for ...


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