Mining water-pollution guidelines tossed

EPA’s effort to regulate mountaintop removal defeated in courtroom

A federal judge overruled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for mountaintop removal—intended to reduce water pollution from Appalachian coal mining operations.

On Aug. 2, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson “infringed on the authority” of West Virginia officials to govern their own pollution and water quality programs, according to the Charleston Gazette. The EPA’s water quality guidance included stricter permit-application reviews through detailed studies of whether mining impacts can be minimized or avoided, new testing for potential toxic mining discharges, and recommended limits on pollution-related electrical conductivity, an indicator of water quality.

Walton concluded the EPA has “only a limited role” once states are granted federal permission to run their own water-pollution permitting agencies. The ruling is the third courtroom defeat this year for the EPA’s effort to regulate mountaintop removal.