The State ex rel. R.T.G., Inc. et al. v. The State of Ohio

98 Ohio St.3d 1, 780 N.E.2d 998


Facts: RTG bought some property in order to surface-mine some coal in eastern Ohio.  Some time later, the Ohio Department of Resources ruled that part of the land was unsuitable for mining because it interfered with an aquifer providing water to Pleasant City.  RTG filed a complaint the Tenth District Court of Appeals seeking a writ of mandamus.  It looks like RTG got their writ, but somehow not the one they wanted and so they appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.


Issue: Did the Ohio Reclamation Board of Review’s decision that RTG’s land was unsuitable for mining constitute a compensable taking?


Rule: The rule of Lucas applies if there has been a 100% taking, while the rule of Penn Central applies if the taking is less than 100%.  The “percentage” will largely depend on how the court defines the denominator of the fraction.


Analysis: The court accepts RTG’s contention that the relevant parcel should be defined as only the coal rights and not the surface rights to their property.  Furthermore, the court notes that coal rights are recognized as “separate property rights” in Ohio.  The court looks at what the relevant parcel was along both “horizontal” and “vertical” axes, and finds that the relevant parcel in this case coincides precisely with RTG’s coal rights.  That means there has been a 100% taking, and the hard-edged, per se rule of Lucas controls.  Lucas finds a compensable taking except when the activity being regulated is a nuisance.  The court finds that coal mining is neither an “absolute” nor a “qualified” nuisance because it is a lawful activity.  Therefore, the UFM designation constitutes a compensable taking.


Conclusion: The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and a writ of mandamus is issued to compel the state to pay for the value of the coal within the “unsuitable for mining” area.


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