MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) - A federal judge says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority in revoking permits for what could now become West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal mine.
In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of St. Louis-based Arch.
She declares a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water pollution permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County is "valid and in full force."
Arch spokeswoman Kim Link says the company is pleased with the decision.
The EPA vetoed the corps' permit for the mine in January 2011, saying it would cause irreparable damage to the environment.
The move enraged both the coal industry and West Virginia politicians, several of whom have since introduced bills to try rein in the EPA.
The EPA said the ruling will “not affect the E.P.A.’s commitment to protect the health of Appalachian communities who depend on clean water.”
The Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy urged EPA to appeal, arguing the agency must be able to fully protect the region's waters.
"Appalachian people are struggling to stop the permanent destruction of their treasured waters and communities," they said. "We urge the EPA to continue exercising its full authority under the law to protect these iconic landscapes and waters."
Statement from Sen. Joe Manchin (D):
“I applaud our courts for stating clearly and unequivocally that a bureaucratic agency like the EPA cannot run the lives of hardworking Americans,” Senator Manchin said. “I always knew that the EPA’s decision to retroactively veto a coal mining permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County was fundamentally wrong and an unprecedented act by the federal government"
Statement from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D):
"This is a huge victory for West Virginia and our coal miners," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. "I want to thank Judge Jackson for recognizing that the EPA and the federal government were completely wrong in revoking this permit. I now call upon Lisa Jackson and the EPA to admit that they have gone too far -- enough is enough. Issue our permits so that we can put our people back to work and provide the resources that will power America."