Coal Tattoo

More on the big mining ruling

I’ve got a short, but updated story on the Gazette’s Web site that explains some initial basics on the 4th Circuit’s ruling in the big mountaintop removal case.

Here’s part of that story:

A federal appeals court today overturned a judge’s 2007 decision to require more thorough permit reviews of mountaintop removal mining operations.

In a victory for the coal industry, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., rejected the decision by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers in Huntington.

By a 2-1 vote, a 4th Circuit panel concluded that Chambers wrongly did not defer to the federal Army Corps of Engineers interpretation of its own rules when granting Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal coal operations.

“In matters involving complex predictions based on special expertise, a reviewing court must generally be at its most deferential,” wrote Judge Roget Gregory in a 74-page opinion on behalf of himself and Judge Dennis Shedd.

Gregory and Shedd also ruled that Chambers wrongly determined the corps should have considered environmental effects before the direct impacts on the streams being filled. Those other effects — on surrounding valleys and forests — are best left to be regulated by state agencies under the federal strip mine law, Gregory and Shedd concluded.

And I’ve also posted Judge Chambers original decision here, so folks can recall what he had to say on the matter.