Court hands EPA a victory in fight against mountaintop-removal mining

Apr 24, 2013 by

Grist

By Lisa Hymas

mountaintop-removal coal-mining site
SouthWings / Appalachian Voices
Mountaintop-removal coal mining: It’s damn ugly.

Score one for the EPA — and everyone else who doesn’t like the idea of a coal company blasting the tops off mountains and dumping the waste into streams.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Environmental Protection Agency won an important legal victory Tuesday in a long-brewing battle with Arch Coal Inc. over a coal mining project in West Virginia known as Spruce No. 1.

The case tests whether the EPA can revoke a permit for the controversial practice known as mountaintop mining after another federal agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has already approved it.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA can indeed revoke such a permit, acting under the authority of the Clean Water Act. (Turns out that dumping tons of dirt and rock into streams does not promote clean water.)

The ruling is “is likely to set off considerable political backlash from industry, some utilities and their congressional allies who have long contended that the EPA’s regulatory efforts are killing the coal sector,” reports the L.A. Times.

Coal-loving Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) is leading that anti-EPA charge. “I will soon be reintroducing the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, legislation the House approved last year to prevent the EPA from using the guise of clean water as a means to disrupt coal mining as they have now done with respect to the Spruce Mine in Logan County, West Virginia,” he said.

The Spruce No. 1 case isn’t resolved yet; it’s been sent back to a lower court for consideration of other issues.

But Tuesday’s ruling is a win for now, so anti-mining activists, like Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club, are celebrating.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

We welcome your comments!