NEW YORK, NY — “The Spruce No. 1 mine project in Logan County, W.Va., would have covered 2,278 acres and ruined six more miles of high-quality streams. It received a final permit to proceed from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. Lawsuits followed, and, in January 2011, the E.P.A. revoked the permit on grounds that the mine would cause unacceptable environmental damage. The E.P.A. had blocked corps projects before. But this was the first time it had rescinded an approved mining permit and was part of the administration’s broader campaign to limit mountaintop mining by reviewing old permits and tightening standards for new ones.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the agency had resorted to ‘magical thinking’ in claiming that the Clean Water Act gives it the power to retroactively rescind a permit. But Section 404 of the law gives the agency broad authority to protect water quality, including the ‘withdrawal’ of permits ‘whenever’ it determines that they will have an ‘unacceptable adverse effect’ on the environment.
The E.P.A. rightly interpreted these words to mean that it had clear authority to claw back a badly misguided decision that would do even more damage to West Virginia’s streams and landscape. We trust that a higher court will read it that way as well.”
— editorial, New York Times