Surface Mining:

Information on Legal Fees Under the Surface Mining Act

RCED-89-140FS: Published: May 9, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the legal fees awarded as a result of litigation brought under either the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) or the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).

GAO found that: (1) as of March 1989, the amount of attorney fees and expenses awarded totalled about $1.4 million under SMCRA and about $124,000 under EAJA; (2) there were no awards for expert witness fees; (3) all but $188,603 of the awarded amount was paid, most of the remainder was pending appeal, and $500 was not paid as a result of negotiations; (4) the payments resulted from 12 lawsuits against the Secretary of the Interior, other Interior officials, a state regulatory authority, and a coal mine operator; (5) a total of 22 awards were granted, because 5 cases had multiple awards; and (6) 12 of the awards were due to Interior or state failure to perform a nondiscretionary act or duty under SMCRA, 6 resulted from lawsuits challenging Interior's regulations, and 4 resulted from Interior's administrative proceedings.

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