Cross-posted from Legal Planet.
EPA has announced that it will delay finalizing its guidance memorandum on Clean Water Act permitting for mountaintop removal mining projects pending review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The announcement is bad news for Appalachian streams, and worse news for environmental interests hoping the Obama administration won’t completely cave to regulated interests.
The guidance was issued in interim form on April 1 of last year. EPA described the memorandum as clarifying how it would review requests for Clean Water Act permits in support of mountaintop removal mining and its expectations of state permitting agencies and the Corps of Engineers. Despite the date of the guidance, EPA wasn’t fooling. The guidance signaled a new, more aggressive attitude toward EPA’s oversight role, an attitude associated with enhanced review of permit applications and even a rare veto of a permit that had been approved by the Corps.
Not surprisingly, the coal industry is fighting back in all available venues. It’s had some initial success in the courts and is working hard on the Congress, as I hope to explain in another post. This news, though, shows that the White House might turn out to be the easiest of targets.
Last year, EPA described the guidance memo as “interim,” but “effective immediately.” The agency invited public comments and promised to issue final guidance no later than April 1, 2011. That self-imposed ...