The Times West Virginian

Opinion

April 25, 2013

Stability, certainty are threatened by appeals court ruling in Spruce Mine case

Stability and certainty are critical factors for the coal industry — any business, for that matter.

A court ruling Tuesday over a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County has frustrated leaders in the coal business and angered state lawmakers.

A federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had the legal authority to retroactively veto a water pollution permit for one of West Virginia’s largest mountaintop removal mines years after it was issued.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., overturned the EPA’s veto, stating that it had overstepped its authority.

Tuesday opinion, written by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson in the U.S. Court of Appeals, overturned Jackson’s ruling.

In January 2011, the EPA revoked a permit that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had issued four years earlier to St. Louis-based Arch Coal and its Mingo Logan Coal Co. subsidiary. The EPA concluded that mining practices at the 2,300-acre Logan County mine would cause irreparable environmental damage and threaten the health of communities nearby.

Last year, Jackson wrote that the “statute does not give the EPA the power to render a permit invalid once it has been issued by the Corps.”

The appellate decision, however, says Congress made its intent plain in “unambiguous language” giving EPA “a broad veto power extending beyond the permit issuance.” Nor does the law impose a time limit for EPA to act, she wrote, instead empowering it to do so whenever it determines an “unacceptable adverse effect” will result.

The Spruce Mine case is only the 13th time since 1972 that the EPA had used the veto authority and the first time it acted on a previously permitted mine.

The appellate court directed Jackson to address the coal industry’s argument that the EPA’s action was an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

West Virginia lawmakers of both political parties vowed they would take action.

“For too long now, the EPA has been waging a destructive war against Appalachia coal mining, and it is costing countless American jobs and investment,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “If we are ever going to recover from our fragile economy, American businesses must have certainty in the marketplace. It is simply common sense to allow companies that already have been granted permits to continue the work they have started. We simply cannot afford to stifle energy production and good-paying jobs.

“(Tuesday's) court decision is yet another example of bureaucracy at its worst: One agency grants a permit; another agency takes it away, and business suffers in the end. The federal government should be an ally, not an adversary, in helping to strike a balance between protecting the environment and creating good American jobs.”

“In 2011, EPA took the unprecedented action of revoking a permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine, which had been issued years prior, an action which sent a chilling effect throughout the American economy,” said Rep. David McKinley, R.W.Va. “If EPA can retroactively pull a permit at a coal mine, what’s to stop them from doing so at any construction site or manufacturing plant?”

U.S. Rep Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., warned the ruling could “open the floodgates to disrupting coal mining in West Virginia and elsewhere” and “upend the traditional balance that has existed between the states and the federal government in the permitting process.”

“(Tuesday’s) federal appeals court ruling further highlights what Congress is up against in President Obama’s war on coal,” Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. “Unfortunately, the decision was the wrong one and will deeply affect hard-working West Virginians. The Environmental Protection Agency has continued to overstep its bounds in its efforts to implement the president’s anti-energy policies. Not only will this ruling cost West Virginians hundreds of jobs, but it begs the question: Who is safe? If the EPA can take back a permit from a coal mine in West Virginia, they can do the same to any business in America.”

We don’t question the need for regulation of controversial mountaintop mining. If coal mining or any business is to succeed, though, there must be some consistency from agency to agency, administration to adminstration. What’s the motivation to invest if a permit can be pulled years after approval?

Congressional action to clarify matters is long overdue.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • If something seems too good to be true, then assume that it is

    Scam. noun. A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
    This is a word that Marion Countians have heard a lot about in the past few years. And the problem appears to be one that is getting worse every day.

    July 31, 2014

  • State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core

    It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
    So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
    Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

    July 30, 2014

  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads