Charleston Gazette Staff Reports
A federal appeals court declined today to throw out the Obama administration’s crackdown on water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mining.
A U.S. Court of Appeals panel for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was within its authority to consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about Clean Water Act permits for mining operations.
The three-judge panel also said that EPA’s guidance on conductivity pollution from mines was not a final agency rule, and not subject to legal challenge.
The panel rejected a 2012 ruling from U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who had decided that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority under federal water pollution and strip mining laws when the agency tried to reduce water pollution from Appalachian coal mining operations. Walton had also said that the EPA “infringed on the authority” of state regulators to govern their own pollution and water quality standard programs.
West Virginia and Kentucky state officials had challenged the EPA in court, along with several mining companies and industry groups.
Today’s ruling sends the lawsuit back to U.S. District Court, and orders the judge there to dismiss part of the claims against the federal government, and to find for the government on the remaining claims.