The opinion of the court was delivered by: Whitman Knapp, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief in
challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of the
Energy Policy Act of 1992 ("EPACT"), 42 U.S.C. § 2297g, et seq.
Defendants have moved, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631, for an order
transferring this action to the United States Court of Federal
Claims ("CFC") for consolidation with plaintiffs' claims in that
court, or, in the alternative, dismissing this action for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As noted by defendants, upon
the filing of a motion to transfer a case to the CFC, proceedings
in the district court are statutorily stayed until sixty days
after a decision on the motion. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(d)(4)(B).
The factual background of this case is set forth in our Opinion
and Order dated November 25, 1998, familiarity with which will be
presumed. This action was commenced on June 12, 1998 and an
amended complaint was filed on August 14. On August 17, the
defendants moved, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(b)(1), for a stay
pending the resolution of related actions commenced by each of
the plaintiffs in the CFC. In an Opinion and Order of November
25, 1998, we denied that motion, but certified the question for
interlocutory appeal. In denying the motion for a stay, we
implicitly determined that we had subject matter jurisdiction,
though we were not directly called upon to decide that issue.
Defendants contend that plaintiffs' claims are barred by the
doctrine of sovereign immunity and that plaintiffs' sole remedy
is in the CFC. Defendants maintain that none of the complaint's
purported bases for district court jurisdiction, (1) federal
question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331; (2) the mandamus
statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1361; (3) the Declaratory Judgment Act,
28 U.S.C. § 2201-2202; and (4) the Administrative Procedure Act,
5 U.S.C. § 701 and 702, operate to waive the government's
sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs respond by asserting that: (1) no
waiver of sovereign immunity is required because district courts
have subject matter jurisdiction to hear constitutional
challenges to statutes; and (2) even if a waiver of sovereign
immunity were required, § 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act
provides for such a waiver in these circumstances. Thus, we now
confront the jurisdictional question head-on.
In the motion at bar defendants have taken the position, as
they did on their prior motion to stay, that 28 U.S.C. § 1491
("the Tucker Act") mandates that plaintiffs' claims are properly
considered only in the CFC and not in the district court. We must
therefore examine whether plaintiffs' claims, which seek
declaratory and injunctive relief, may be adjudicated in this
A. Subject matter jurisdiction and sovereign immunity
The Second Circuit's decision in In re Chateaugay Corp. (2d
Cir. 1995) 53 F.3d 478 convinces us that we retain subject matter
jurisdiction over this action without regard to whether the
government has waived sovereign immunity.
Chateaugay dealt with the question of who should pay the
spiraling costs wrought by a series of benefits agreements over
many years between coal mine owners and their employees. The
burden of funding the pensions and benefits of an "ever-greater"
number of retirees was falling upon an "ever-smaller" number of
mining companies. Chateaugay, 53 F.3d at 484. Congress
responded to the crisis by enacting the Coal Act, Pub.L. No.
102-486, 106 Stat. 2776, 3036-56 (codified at 26 U.S.C. § 9701-9722
). The Coal Act spread the costs of funding the pensions
between the mining companies then in existence and the companies
which had already left the industry (by imposing the latter
group's obligations on "related persons," typically successors in
interest). To enforce compliance, the Coal Act authorized the
Secretary of the Treasury to impose taxes on companies who failed
to meet their obligations under the Act.
LTV Steel Company, the plaintiff in Chateaugay and a former
coal mining outfit which had already filed for bankruptcy
protection at the time of the Act's passage, challenged the
constitutionality of the Coal Act on two grounds: (1) it claimed
that the Act violated the Due Process Clause; and (2) that the
Act constituted a taking of private property for public use
without just compensation. The Chateaugay court affirmed the
district court's dismissal of the due process claims after
finding that the Coal Act, as an economic regulation, need only
meet the rational basis level of scrutiny. 53 F.3d at 486-491.
The court then proceeded to address the thornier issue of
whether a takings claim could ever be brought in a district court
without first seeking compensation in the CFC. Id. at 492.
After surveying a wide variety of Supreme Court decisions, the
Chateaugay court noted a distinction between the Supreme
Court's endorsement of district court jurisdiction over (1)
statutes burdening real and tangible property; and (2) those
requiring direct transfers of money ...