Coal Tattoo

Breaking news: EPA mining guidance thrown out

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Just in from U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Judge Reggie B. Walton has thrown out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality guidance for coal mining in Appalachia, a central part of the Obama administration’s crackdown on mountaintop removal.

Here’s the bottom line from the ruling:

The Court is not unappreciative of the viable interests asserted by all parties to this litigation. How to best strike a balance between, on the one hand, the need to preserve the verdant landscapes and natural resources of Appalachia and, on the other hand, the economic role that coal mining plays in the region is not, however, a question for the Court to decide. In this litigation, the sole inquiry for the Court is the legality of the Final Guidance, and, for the reasons set forth above, that inquiry yields the conclusion that the EPA has overstepped its statutory authority under the CWA and the SMCRA, and infringed on the authority afforded state regulators by those statutes.

UPDATED: Read our Gazette print story online here.

I’ve posted a copy of Judge Walton’s decision here. Federal judges have previously thrown out EPA’s plan to coordinate mining permit reviews with other agencies and the EPA move to veto the permit for the largest strip-mine in West Virginia history.

Here’s a statement just out from the National Mining Association, which had challenged the EPA guidance:

“NMA is gratified by today’s decision in NMA v. Jackson in which the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set aside the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Final Guidance for coal mining operations in Appalachia because the guidance and agency’s activities have overstepped the bounds of the law. As we have always maintained, EPA has engaged in an unlawful overreach in its attempt to commandeer the permitting responsibilities the law places with other state and federal agencies.

“Today’s decision has truly given coal miners and coal mining communities their ‘day in court’ and has affirmed NMA’s longstanding belief that EPA overreached its authority in its virtual moratorium on Eastern coal mining permits and denied those operations the protections provided for under the law. It is now time to get miners back to work by allowing the state permitting agencies to do their jobs.”

 UPDATED: Here’s what EPA had to say today — 

The EPA is reviewing today’s District Court decision regarding the agency’s July 21, 2011, Mountaintop Mining Guidance. We will continue to protect public health and water quality for Appalachian communities under the law.