West Virginia’s Coal Mining Community Applauds Decision by DC Federal Court’s Decision on Spruce Mine Permit

Decision confirms EPA has overstepped its authority and supports need for HR 2018

CHARLESTON -- Friday’s decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia taking EPA to task for overstepping its authority with its veto of the Spruce Mine permit in Logan is a victory for the West Virginia’s 63,000 coal mining families.

“It is clear that Friday’s decision was a victory, but the bigger fight remains,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association.  “We have to bring an end, once and for all to the EPA’s regulatory war against the West Virginia’s hard working coal miners. We applaud the decision because it supports our assertion that the EPA is an out-of-control agency single-handedly destroying tens of thousands of jobs across the country and thousands of jobs right here in West Virginia. We hope that Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, will take note of this decision as well and take action on H.R. 2018, the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act” (co-sponsored by Congressman Rahall and passed by the House in July 2011) to return appropriate balance on EPA’s relationship with other federal agencies.”

In her Friday decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson left little doubt EPA’s action is a clear abrogation of the legislative limits set for the agency in its relationship with other agencies., “‘EPA’s position is that 404(c) grants it plenary authority to unilaterally modify or revoke a permit that has been duly issued by the Corps…. This is a stunning power for an agency to arrogate to itself when there is absolutely no mention of it in the statute,” Jackson wrote.

In her decision, Judge Jackson confirmed our belief that EPA employed “magical thinking” (see page 31 of the order) to achieve an “illogical and impractical” (also on page 31) conclusion to revoke the Spruce Permit. Judge Jackson accurately equated EPA’s actions to that of a “disappointed player’s threat to take his ball and go home when he didn’t get to pitch.” (see footnote on page 27).

Yesterday’s decision was certainly good news for Arch Coal and citizens of Logan County as well as the stability of the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 program. Judge Jackson’s decision also validates the thoroughness and correctness of the Corps of Engineers’ permitting program along with the practices of the WV DEP when dealing with a professionally comprehensive mining permit application. However, EPA continues to wreak havoc with the CWA Section 402 permitting programs which are implemented and managed by the states. Just as it did with the case at issue, EPA continues to exceed the legal boundaries of its authority by hijacking NPDES permits for mining operations. H.R. 2018 is desperately needed to force EPA to respect the boundaries of regulatory authority between the states and the federal government, as intended by Congress in the CWA. We hope the decision rendered on Friday by Judge Jackson will convince the U.S. Senate that action on H.R. 2018 is desperately needed.