The coal industry lobby today filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to challenge the Obama administration’s stated plan to take “unprecedented steps” to limit the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining.
Lawyers for the National Mining Association, in a suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, are challenging EPA’s more detailed review of Clean Water Act permits for surface mines and the agency’s new guidance for controlling “conductivity” pollution from mountaintop removal operations.
“NMA members’ efforts to navigate this unlawful process and obtain reasonable and predictable permit terms have been unsuccessful, leaving us no choice but to challenge the EPA and Corps policy in court,” said NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn. “Detailed agency guidance is not a valid substitute for lawful rulemaking based on public notice and comment,” Quinn explained. “The agencies’ continued abuse of the law to impose arbitrary standards on mining operations, state agencies and other federal regulatory bodies threatens the entire region with further economic misery and stagnant employment.”
The suit itself alleges that EPA’s actions have:
… Substantially and illegally amend the statutory and regulatory permitting processes for coal mining that form the backbone of coal companies expectations in planning to extract coal for our nation’s power supply, particularly for those companies that require “valley fills” for their coal mining operations.
The suit also names as a defendant the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and alleges:
By dramatically altering timelines and imposing new requirements in complete disregard of existing federal law and procedure, EPA and the Corps have launched a moving target in coal mining permitting that is substantially and irreparably harming NMA‟s coal mining members.