White House Review Delays EPA Mountaintop Removal Guidance

by Holly Doremus | April 05, 2011

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 ...

Administration's Announcement on Mountaintop Removal Mining -- In Perspective

by Ben Somberg | November 19, 2009
"Interior increases oversight of mountaintop mining" trumpets the AP, and "U.S. boosts coal mining oversight to fight pollution" says Reuters. That's in response to an announcement from Interior on Wednesday. But on Coal Tattoo, and from NRDC and Sierra Club, one learns of a pretty different story. Says NRDC's Rob Perks: Why in the world would I have a problem with this? As I previously posted on the apparent "slow-walk" on this issue by the Interior Department, Interior Secretary Ken ...

Court to Interior: Not So Fast on Rule Change

by Holly Doremus | August 17, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. In April, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked a federal court to vacate a last-minute Bush administration rule relaxing stream buffer zone requirements for dumping waste from mountaintop removal mining. Salazar said that the rule didn’t pass the smell test, and that it had been improperly issued without ESA consultation. Environmental groups which had challenged the rule welcomed Salazar’s announcement, but the National Mining Association, which had intervened in support of the rule, ...

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