Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Mining Association sues EPA over new rules for mountaintop-removal coal mines

The National Mining Association Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson ignored requirements for public involvement when she issued the new water-pollution guidelines for surface coal mining in Appalachia, in which it oversees water-pollution permit decisions of the Army Corps of Engineers. "In the 42-page complaint, the association alleges EPA's permit reviews were an effort to "rob" other agencies of their regulatory role," Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports. EPA made its guidance effective immediately on an interim basis while an eight-month public review process is completed.

"NMA members' efforts to navigate this unlawful process and obtain reasonable and predictable permit terms have been unsuccessful, leaving us no choice but to challenge the EPA and Corps policy in court," NMA President Hal Quinn told Ward. "Detailed agency guidance is not a valid substitute for lawful rulemaking based on public notice and comment." EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit but added "EPA's mining guidance is fully consistent with the law and the best available science and will help ensure that Americans living in coal country don't have to choose between a healthy environment for their families and the jobs they need to support them."

NMA alleges  the new process "adds significant additional time to the Corps' regulatory review" and is "dramatically altering timelines" for companies to receive new mining permits. "Industry lawyers also complain that, without public involvement, EPA wrongly put into place a detailed tool that grades the potential impacts of permits to help agency officials determine which mining permits need more rigorous reviews," Ward writes. "The new guidance calls for much tougher review, and perhaps rejection of permits, based on the potential to increase the electrical conductivity of streams, which is a stronger measure of many harmful pollutants from mining and has been linked to damage of aquatic life." (Read more)

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