A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the Obama administration’s environmental protections designed to reduce water pollution from mountaintop-removal coal mining.
In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the Environmental Protection Agency acted within its authority when it instituted two measures under the Clean Water Act that address damage from surface mining.
Under a process set up in 2009, EPA began screening mining permit applications made to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, initiating discussions with the Corps on proposed mining projects that EPA considered likely to damage navigable waters.
In 2011, the EPA recommended that states impose more stringent conditions for issuing mining permits. EPA may object if the permit, in the agency’s view, does not meet state water quality standards or other provisions of the Clean Water Act.
In the appeals court ruling, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the EPA’s recommendation, known as a “final guidance,” is not an agency action reviewable by the courts. If an applicant is denied a permit, the applicant may then challenge the denial in court.
In a statement, EPA welcomed the ruling and said it is committed to consistently using its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect the health and environment of Appalachian communities.