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Court ruling backs EPA reviews of mining companies' Clean Water Act permits

July 15, 2014
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The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has backed the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut down on water pollution from mining operations, the Charleston Gazette reported.

The ruling supports the Obama administration's policies that aim to reduce coal pollution. The legal panel upheld the EPA's right to set up a process to review permits under the federal Clean Water Act for mining companies, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the judges stated that the EPA's guidelines for reducing pollution from surface mines could not be challenged in court because they are not part of a final agency rule.

The three-judge panel dismissed previous decisions by a U.S. district judge who upheld claims by the National Mining Association and the state of West Virginia that the federal agency was violating its authority. They had alleged that the agency was trying to illegally enforce regulation to reduce pollution that scientists put down to mountaintop removal.

The agency's press secretary Liz Purchia said in a statement that the federal regulator welcomed the ruling and confirmed the EPA's commitment to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to make sure the environment and the public health of Appalachian communities were protected. Environmental groups also supported the court's decision, accusing mining companies of damaging the Appalachian environment for years.

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