Coal Tattoo

Judge defers to Corps in Ky. strip-mining case


On the heels of last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers here in West Virginia, there was a ruling out of federal court in Kentucky on Friday that was less promising for opponents of mountaintop removal coal mining.

In the Kentucky case, U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell sided with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a dispute over a permit for Leeco Inc.’s Stacy Branch operation along the Knott-Perry County line in Eastern Kentucky.  Kentuckians for the Commonwealth had raised concerns not just about water quality impacts from the mine, but also objected that the Corps had not really considered the potential impacts on human health, given the growing body of science on that issue.

You can read the court’s decision here, but it’s especially interesting to note this from the end of the decision:

Plaintiffs make a number of compelling and well-documented arguments. Were the Court deciding the Permit issue in the first instance, perhaps its opinion would be different. However, under the highly deferential standard of review afforded to the Corps, the Court finds it did not act unreasonably. Though, as Plaintiffs’ arguments illustrate, reasonable minds could differ on many of the issues decided by the Corps, the Corps adequately analyzed the issues before it before issuing the Permit.