Federal Court Strikes Down EPA's Water Quality Rules in W.Va. Mining

By: Alex Snyder Email
By: Alex Snyder Email

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It’s being called a victory for the mining industry.

A federal judge struck down the Environmental Protection’s water quality rules for mountaintop removal mining saying they exceeded their authority.

And so the debate began immediately.

"I think it's a victory for West Virginia and especially West Virginia coal miners and their families," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.

"Even though this is about water quality guidance designed to protect aquatic life, I think this is a real loss, potentially, for community health in southern West Virginia," said Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, a self-proclaimed opponent of mountaintop removal mining.

A federal court ruled on Tuesday that the EPA had exceeded its authority in interfering with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s process of authorizing mining permits.

So, with this ruling, the West Virginia DEP now has the authority to issue mining permits.

"We've been fighting this case for two years now and the judge finally ruled on it today and, once again, we're very pleased with the ruling," Tomblin said.

He said the state’s mining industry was being crippled by the EPA’s standards in issuing mining permits.

But other people say it’s about more that just that -- people like Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, who played an active role in protests at Boone County’s Hobet mine.

"Are we going to protect what we have left here in the state and this region or are we going to let them disturb and render useless more land that we may very well depend on for the health and the basis for a different economy in the future when coal inevitably does leave the state?" Louis-Rosenberg said.

But this appears to be an ongoing battle.

"We would certainly hope that the EPA would follow the judge's ruling and back off and let us do our jobs in West Virginia,” Tomblin said.

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