By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered to abide by a ruling issuing a permit to a mining operation in Logan County, and West Virginia legislators are applauding the decision.
A permit was issued a permit for Arch Coal Spruce No. 1 five years ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, last year the EPA retroactively vetoed the permit under the Clean Water Act.
“This decision underscores what I’ve been saying for the past three years: this Administration has been abusing their regulatory authority in order to advance an anti-coal agenda,” said U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
“The fact that the decision states the EPA’s veto of the Spruce Mine permit was ‘unprecedented’ and it acted in a manner that was ‘arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law…’ could not be a clearer sign that West Virginians have been unnecessarily subjected to an overreach of federal power.”
Middle ground is needed, said Capito, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that oversees the Clean Water Act.
The permit for the Spruce Mine had been approved after a 10-year regulatory process that included review by the EPA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the Section 404(c) permit, which is a requirement for constructing clean valley fills, a process used in surface coal mining.
Although the EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to “veto” Section 404(c) permits before they are awarded by the U.S. Army Corps, the agency had never before attempted to veto a previously awarded and active permit.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the Mingo Logan permit is valid. The conclusion said the “EPA’s interpretation of (the Clean Water Act)…is not reasonable.”
In addition, the Court also wrote that “[the Clean Water Act] does not give EPA the power to render a permit invalid once it has been issued by the Corps.”
Mingo Logan Coal Company - which had been awarded the Spruce Mine permit - was poised to invest $250 million in the Spruce Mine project.
“I applaud our courts for stating clearly and unequivocally that a bureaucratic agency like the EPA cannot run the lives of hardworking Americans,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said. “I always knew that the EPA’s decision to retroactively veto a coal mining permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County was fundamentally wrong and an unprecedented act by the federal government.”
“Justice was served,” Manchin said. “the EPA was dead wrong on this”