Coal Tattoo

The Obama administration’s move to crack down on mountaintop removal coal mining has been listed in the Vermont Law School’s annual collection of environmental issues to watch in 2011.

You can read the entire Environment Watch List 2011 here, and you’ll see it also includes congressional failure to enact comprehensive climate change legislation.

Regarding mountaintop removal, the list produced by top-ranked environmental law program in the country, said:

Regulators, politicians, coal industry representatives, environmentalists, and mining community residents are awaiting the results of pending litigation challenging the EPA’s heightened regulatory scrutiny of mountaintop removal mining. The Spruce No.1 Mine owner, Arch Coal Co., has sued the EPA over the veto, claiming the decision was politically motivated and violates due process. This closely watched case could set a precedent for future vetoes and is so controversial that coal state representatives from both the House and Senate have sent letters to President Obama and Administrator Jackson strongly urging Jackson not to veto the permit.

The coal industry and the state of West Virginia have sued the EPA, claiming it should have gone through notice and comment rulemaking before adopting the new water quality standards. The lawsuits have multiplied to the point that the EPA requested to consolidate them all in one district court. Coal state representatives have sworn to block the EPA from enforcing the standards through legislation, perhaps an appropriations rider. The Corps’ stricter mitigation policy requires “functional replacement” of streams and wetlands, forcing permittees to recreate the actual ecological functions of the waterways destroyed by the valley fills. If the Corps makes good on this new policy, it will impose significant additional costs and further limitations on where the industry can mine in Appalachia.