A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could revoke a permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 in West Virginia. The ruling came even after another federal agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, had already approved it. The ruling overturned a lower court’s finding in favor of Arch Coal.
“We’re disappointed in the decision,” Arch Coal spokeswoman Kim Link said.
Environmental groups have petitioned Congress to ban mountaintop mining altogether. They contend the practice ruins the landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, where the technique is most common, and presents a health risk to people using water in the area.
The EPA said it was pleased with the federal court's ruling and would work with the Justice Department to review the details of the case. Still at issue is whether the EPA’s revoking of the permit was arbitrary and capricious, as Arch Coal contends. A lower court will now review that question, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The fight over Spruce No. 1 goes back to 2007, when the Bush administration granted Arch a permit to dump mining material into three streams and related tributaries. In 2011, four years later after the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit, the Obama administration's EPA overturned it, citing water-quality concerns.
During mountaintop mining, coal companies use explosives to remove the tops of mountains to gain access to coal seams lying below the surface. The coal companies must obtain permits under the Clean Water Act to dispose of rock, dirt and mining waste into nearby streams.