Yesterday, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the State of West Virginia in its lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning federal policies that have hindered the issuance of new mining permits in West Virginia and Kentucky.
The federal policies were overly restrictive standards that went well beyond the EPA's authority in the permitting process. The court declared that the standards are unlawful and that the federal EPA had "overstepped its statutory authority" in violation of federal law and the required rulemaking process. The thirty-four page written opinion recognizes that the EPA had inappropriately usurped West Virginia's authority to regulate coal mining and protect the environment.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin expressed his gratitude to the court for its recognition of the huge over-reach attempted by the EPA. "First and foremost, this is a significant win for our coal miners," said Gov. Tomblin. "Our state regulators at the WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) have been stonewalled from issuing new mining permits because of the EPA's illegal policies. Those policies were anti-coal and anti-West Virginia, and I credit the court for its recognition that the WVDEP-not the federal government-is the right party to strike a reasonable balance between issuing new mining permits and protecting the environment. I hope the EPA will adhere to this court decision and let us put our miners to work. And I want everyone I know that I will continue this fight until the EPA relents on its harmful and ill-founded policies."
This is only the latest West Virginia victory against the EPA. Last year, the same federal court concluded that the EPA had overstepped its statutory authority by unlawfully meddling in the valley fill permitting process. And in the recent Spruce mine case, a separate federal court rejected the EPA's inappropriate intervention in the permitting process.
Gov. Tomblin hopes these rulings will force the EPA to rethink its anti-coal, anti-West Virginia stance. "The primary focus of my administration has been job preservation and job creation," said Gov. Tomblin. "The EPA's unlawful polices were killing coal jobs and that's why we continued the fight against the EPA in court. Hopefully the federal government will respect the rule of law and will end its war on coal."