By Brian Sewell
A federal appeals court ruled unanimously in July that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to coordinate with other federal agencies during the mountaintop removal permitting process.
In 2009, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began coordinating their review of permits associated with large-scale mountaintop removal coal mining. Environmental groups say the process has led to greater scrutiny of the environmental impacts of valley fill permits, which allow coal companies to dump mining waste into adjacent valleys, burying headwater streams. But the enhanced permitting process was challenged by the coal industry and several coal-producing states.
The court also ruled that the EPA’s guidance on conductivity, an important water quality indicator, is not a final rule and therefore is not subject to legal challenge from the coal industry.