On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Final Guidance related to Appalachian surface mining. The decision finds that in issuing and enforcing arbitrary water quality standards, EPA has overstepped its legal authority and infringed upon the authority of states like Kentucky. U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05), a leading congressional critic of the EPA's job-killing regulatory overreach, issued the following statement:
"Today marks an important victory for coal miners in Kentucky and across coal country. Over the last three and a half years, the EPA has turned a deaf ear to the chorus of public and congressional opposition to its radical efforts to deadlock the mine permitting process and has run roughshod over state permitting authority. The EPA's senseless "War On Coal' seeks to put coal out of business, eliminate conventional energy jobs, and increase electricity bills for working families and small businesses. For the second time in less than a year, the D.C. District Court has come to the right conclusion: the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson are out of bounds."
Under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), mining operations are required to obtain permits relating to water quality. The EPA had issued "Final Guidance" adding a requirement regarding the conductivity of water -- a requirement with no precedent in previous regulations. A number of states and industry groups, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, sued the federal government arguing that the EPA had: exceeded its authority under the CWA; ignored the primacy of state oversight of environmental issues; and used its Guidance as an illegal enforcement mechanism to unilaterally lock up the permitting process. Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed on all counts, throwing out the EPA's "Final Guidance" on conductivity.