Big news today out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia: A three-judge panel has given the federal Environmental Protection Agency another victory in the agency’s efforts to combat water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mining.
You can read the decision here. Basically, the court held that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers had legal authority to set up an Enhanced Coordination Procedures for reviewing Clean Water Act permits for mining operations, and that the EPA’s conductivity pollution guidance was not a final rule subject — at least not at this point — to legal challenge.
The decision throws out an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who had sided with the National Mining Association and the state of West Virginia, among others who had sued EPA to block the agency’s anti-pollution efforts.
Today’s decision was written by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the other members of the panel were Thomas B. Griffith and Sri Srinivasan. Kavanaugh and Griffith were appointed by President George W. Bush, and Srinivasan by President Obama.
Readers may also recall that efforts to overturn the EPA’s veto of the Spruce Mine permit, while initially successful, were later tossed by the D.C. Circuit.
EPA press secretary Liz Purchia issued this prepared statement about the ruling:
EPA is pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with our position in this case. We are committed to consistently using our authority under the Clean Water Act to protect the health and environment of Appalachian communities. The Agency is working with the states, mining companies, other stakeholders and the public to enable environmentally responsible mining projects to move forward.
Citizen groups have also issued a statement, available here.