Court backs EPA permitting process for mountaintop mining

An appeals court upheld an Environmental Protection Agency rule that cracks down on water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mining.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the industry challenge Friday, stating the adopted policies by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers were within the agency's powers.

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The ruling reverses a lower court ruling that sided with West Virginia and Kentucky. The states argued the new review process for mountaintop mining made it difficult for companies to obtain permits.

The two policies in question were issued by the administration during President Obama's first term. They are aimed at water contamination from mining operations, by creating more requirements for companies applying for permits under the Clean Water Act.

"In our view, EPA and the Corps acted within their statutory authority when they adopted the Enhanced Coordination Process," wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the agency was "pleased" with the court's decision, and that it is "working with the states, mining companies, other stakeholders and the public to enable environmentally responsible mining projects to move forward."

The National Mining Association said it is still reviewing the ruling, but said it is "very disappointing for the industry, particularly in Appalachia," which is a coal-dependent region.

The ruling is the latest in a host of others that have backed EPA policies enacted under the Obama administration.