Coal Tattoo

Catching up on some legal action from Friday: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed the appeal of a November 2009 ruling that concluded federal regulators wrongly did not give the public enough input into the review of mountaintop removal mining permits.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers had issued the ruling back in November 2009.  The ruling focused on the federal Army Corps of Engineers’ practice (subscription required) of considering permits to be administratively complete and ready for public notice and comment before some key documents  — most importantly the “mitigation plans” through which companies try to compensate for burying streams — are available for the public to examine and comment on.

Now, the Obama administration had already dropped the federal government’s appeal, and without that the industry was not legally able to challenge the decision on its own.  When federal judges remand a matter to an agency — as happened in this case — only the agency involved has the ability to file an appeal.

On a somewhat related matter, the 4th Circuit has also dismissed an appeal by the coal industry of  a March 2009 mountaintop removal ruling by U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin. Readers may recall that Judge Goodwin threw out the use by the Corps of Engineers of its streamlined process for approving valley fill permits.