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Gypsum Mine Dispute Heads to Nevada Justices

(CN) - The 9th Circuit on Monday asked the Nevada Supreme Court to help sort out a challenge to a law that would head off the operation of a gypsum mine near federally protected lands outside Las Vegas.

Nevada-based Gypsum Resources bought an abandoned gypsum mine in 2003 on land adjacent to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area west of Las Vegas. Before the company could apply for the zoning variance that would have allowed it to reopen the mine, however, the Nevada Legislature passed SB 358, which prohibited such a variance outright.

In a federal complaint, Gypsum Resources claimed that SB 358 violated the Nevada Constitution because it had devalued its property. It also alleged an illegal taking as well as violations of its rights to due process and equal protection.

A Las Vegas federal judge ruled for Gypsum Resources on the state-law claims, and denied Nevada's motion for summary judgment on the equal-protection claims. The court granted the state's motion for summary judgment on the due-process claim, however, finding that the company had no inherent right to apply for a zoning variance.

Gypsum agreed to drop the remaining federal claims as moot last year in light of the District Court's ruling that SB 358 violated state law. This leaves the 9th Circuit with nothing to decide on appeal, as the only question now is one of state law. Thus, the federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday certified the following questions to the Nevada Supreme Court:

"Does Nevada Senate Bill No. 358 violate article IV, § 20 of the Nevada Constitution?; Does SB 358 violate article IV, § 21 of the Nevada Constitution?; Does SB 358 violate article IV, § 25 of the Nevada Constitution?; If SB 358 would otherwise violate article IV, sections 20, 21, or 25 of the Nevada Constitution, does it fall within an applicable exception and so remain valid?"


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