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Breaking news: Court rejects Obama MTR rule change

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A federal court in Washington has just rejected the Obama Interior Department’s effort to throw out a Bush administration rule change that essentially eliminated the federal strip mining law’s stream “buffer zone” rule.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. denied a motion from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (pictured above) to toss out the Bush rule change without actually going through the formal rulemaking process. Recall that getting rid of the Bush rule change was a key part of the Obama administration’s plan to deal with mountaintop removal.

Salazar had filed his motion in a suit brought by environmental groups challenging the Bush changes to the rule. He argued that he had “confessed serious legal deficiencies in the rulemaking” and that having a court simply throw the rule out “will not result in disruptive consequences.”  But the National Mining Association argued there was nothing wrong with the rule, and if Obama officials wanted to change it they would have to initiate a new rulemaking.

In a five-page ruling, Judge Kennedy sided with the National Mining Association, saying that Salazar was wrongly trying to “repeal a rule without public notice and comment, without judicial consideration of the merits. “