Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Judge nixes Obama's fast-track move to reverse Bush rule easing mountaintop-removal mines

A federal judge told the Obama administration today that it can't use a quick, backdoor approach to restore the "buffer zone" protecting streams from valley fills used by mountaintop-removal coal mines. The ruling likely means that the Interior Department will have to go through a months-long process of proposing and holding hearings on a regulation, much as the outgoing Bush administration did when it enacted a regulation that Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette says "essentially eliminated" the buffer-zone rule, making it more difficult to block mountaintop-removal mines.

"Getting rid of the Bush rule change was a key part of the Obama administration’s plan to deal with mountaintop removal," Ward writes on his Coal Tattoo blog. The Interior Department tried to scuttle the Bush regulation with a motion, in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups challenging the Bush changes, claiming “serious legal deficiencies” in the Bush process. But Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in his ruling that Interior was asking him to “repeal a rule without public notice and comment, without judicial consideration of the merits.” (Read more)

Meanwhile, "The Obama administration late last week quietly approved one of six major mountaintop removal permits that were said to be undergoing close scrutiny by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," Ward reports. "Without announcing the move publicly, EPA gave the nod for the federal Army Corps of Engineers to issue a Clean Water Act permit for Consol Energy Inc.'s Peg Fork Surface Mine near Chattaroy in Mingo County." (Read more)

No comments: