Spruce Mine Mountaintop Removal Coal Permit Restored

Sat, 2012-04-07 11:57Laurel Whitney
Laurel Whitney's picture

Spruce Mine Mountaintop Removal Coal Permit Restored

In late March, a federal court ruled to open the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, WV, to mountaintop removal coal mining. The EPA had originally vetoed the permit back in January of 2011, explaining that the destructive practices of mountaintop removal would endanger communities' health and access to clean water.

The permit authorizes the largest single mountaintop removal site in West Virginia's history.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the EPA overreached when it tried to revoke the permit using the laws of the Clean Water Act. Berman declared,

It posits a scenario involving the automatic self-destruction of a written permit issued by an entirely separate federal agency after years of study and consideration. Not only is this nonrevocation-revocation logistically complicated, but the possibility that it could happen would leave permittees in the untenable position of being unable to rely upon the sole statutory touchstone for measuring their Clean Water Act compliance: the permit.”

Local citizens and environmental groups expressed dismay at the decision, while industry reps rejoiced.

The ruling came on the heels of the second anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, which killed 29 miners. Caused by the ignition of high methane levels, investigations later determined negligence and overt safety violations by Massey Energy led to the explosion.

Arch Coal, the company that owns the Spruce mine permit, was reportedly “pleased” with the decision, while The New York Times editorial urges the Obama administration to appeal.


“The administration must appeal. The Clean Water Act is on its side, as are the people of West Virginia,” the Times editorial notes. 

Comments

The permit was approved in 2007, during the previous administration.

The key point seems to be whether a permit may be rescinded.

I have not found any examples where EPA has rescinded a permit under the CWA.

But, the NY Times wrote this:

But Section 404 of the law gives the agency broad authority to protect water quality, including the “withdrawal” of permits “whenever” it determines that they will have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on the environment.

So, there seems to be some disagreement here. Did the judge disagree with the law? If EPA does have such authority, the judge needs rather to ask whether they met the standard of “unacceptable adverse effect” on the environment. Surely it is acceptable to Arch Coal and its employees. Clearly, it is unacceptable to a lot of West Virginians.

Maybe Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson should be forced to live with the others affected by this decision.

Her sources of funding and promotion are…?

As ever, follow the money.

This from Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Berman_Jackson:

Jackson represented nine term Representative for Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district, William J. Jefferson in his corruption trial in 2009.

Jackson has served as an expert legal commentator for many news organizations such as, Fox News Channel, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC.[3]

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