EPA Overreaching On Coal Mining Struck Down by Federal Court

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By Christopher Hopkins, The Saint Consulting Group

A federal judge has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority by establishing water quality criteria for coal mining operations in Appalachia.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton is a blow to Obama Administration efforts to stop mountaintop-removal coal mining.

A federal suit filed by the National Mining Association and several other plaintiffs, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Pikeville, KY, challenged the EPA’s revision of water quality criteria for the discharge of water from surface mining into Appalachian valley waterways.

Judge Walton ruled that the EPA infringed on the authority given to state regulators by federal clean-water and surface-mining laws.

The EPA regulations sought to require that “no discharge of dredged or filled material may be permitted if the waters would be severely degraded.” The new standards took authority for approving mining applications from the states and placed it under the purview of the EPA.

Judge Walton wrote that the court “is not unappreciative of the viable interests asserted by all parties to this litigation” but ruled that the EPA “overstepped its statutory authority” under the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act “and it infringed on the authority afforded state regulators by those statutes.”

The EPA changes had a negative impact on the mining industry in West Virginia and Kentucky, pitting the environmental concerns of the federal regulators versus the economic concerns highlighted by the plaintiffs.

For the full decision click here Mining Decision .

Christopher Hopkins is senior vice president for aggregates and mining for The Saint Consulting Group, email hopkins@tscg.biz

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