Coal Tattoo

No change: Obama DOJ backs pro-coal court ruling


Folks who are hoping that President Barack Obama’s election was going to completely reverse government policies backing mountaintop removal coal mining got more evidence to the contrary today.

The Obama Justice Department filed a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opposing further consideration of a lower court ruling that would have more closely regulated mountaintop removal.

“This case does not merit further review,” said the brief filed by DOJ attorneys on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As I’ve written here before,  citizen groups want the full 4th Circuit to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision that overturned the decision by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers to require the Corps to conduct more detailed environmental reviews before it approves new valley fills.  The 4th Circuit took the unusual step of requiring the government to respond to the hearing motion filed by environmental groups, something that may offer a slight hope for citizens that the full court would reconsider the case.

We don’t know yet if the full 4th Circuit will rehear the case. But we do know that the DOJ brief offered precious little to indicate what the Obama administration is going to do to curb mountaintop removal. About all it said in that regard was this:

…The Corps and EPA are also reviewing how these kinds of section 404 permits will be analyzed in the future. Because the [4th circuit panel] opinion defers to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous regulation, nothing in the opinion will constrain the Corps and EPA in deciding how to analyze permits in the future, which could include additional environmental safeguards.