Tuesday, April 23, 2013

D.C. Court of Appeals sides with EPA in veto of permit for huge mountaintop-removal coal mine

Reversing a federal judge's decision, an appeals court ruled today that the Environmental Protection Agency legally rejected a permit for what would be one of the largest mountaintop-removal coal mines ever.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that EPA can throw out Clean Water Act permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Henderson was appointed by George H.W. Bush; the two other judges were appointed by George W. Bush, notes Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.

The case involves Arch Coal's Spruce Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, originally proposed to cover more than 3,000 acres and permitted by the Corps for 2,300 acres. For a copy of the ruling, via Ward's Coal Tattoo blog, click here.

"Coal industry officials and coalfield politicians have argued that EPA did not have the legal power to veto the Spruce Mine permit after it was issued," Ward writes. "Their complaints about EPA's veto have been at the heart of their campaign to paint EPA as a rogue agency carrying out an illegal effort to destroy the Appalachian coal industry."

"EPA cited the growing scientific evidence that mountaintop removal significantly damages water quality downstream, and noted an independent engineering study that found Arch Coal could have greatly reduced the Spruce Mine's impacts," Ward notes. Jason Bostic, a vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, told Ward, "I can't imagine Congress intended things to work this way. To restore some sort of stability back into the permit process, some legislation might be required." (Read more)

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