Monday, March 24, 2014

Supreme Court upholds EPA's retroactive veto of permit for huge mountaintop-removal coal mine

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Arch Coal Inc. challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's retroactive veto of parts of an Army Corps of Engineers permit for what could have been the largest mountaintop-removal coal mine to date.
Mine site lies amid swath of similar mines in West Virginia and Kentucky (Yahoo map)
At issue was the Spruce No. 1 mine in central West Virginia, "which in 2007 received a permit from the Corps of Engineers to discharge material at nearby streams and tributaries," Brent Kendall reports for The Wall Street Journal. In 2009, after the Obama administration began, newly appointed EPA officials began efforts to modify or suspend the permit, "saying new information showed that dumping mining waste would impose unacceptable harms on water quality and wildlife." EPA's efforts prohibited Arch Coal's Mingo Logan subsidiary in 2011 "from discharging material into two of the streams that had previously been approved as disposal areas." In April an appeals court reversed a federal judge's decision, ruling that EPA legally rejected the permit.

Mingo Logan said in a petition to the Supreme Court that EPA's move would curtail mine activities by 88 percent, Kendall writes. "The company said it spent several years and millions of dollars working with state and federal officials to obtain the permit." They said the move by EPA "was unprecedented and would create uncertainty in industries that have invested billions of dollars in reliance on permits issued by the Corps of Engineers," and said Congress "never meant to give EPA 'a retroactive trump card' over the corps." (Read more)

Meanwhile, Willie Nelson has come out against mountaintop removal with a video of mining and its pitfalls as he sings "America the Beautiful."

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