WASHINGTON, D.C., — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up the case involving the Spruce Mine permit and the federal EPA.
Twenty-seven state attorneys general wanted the High Court to hear whether the EPA has authority to veto a Clean Water Act permit after it has already been granted.
“It is always very difficult to get a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the decision in this case is disappointing,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. “The EPA’s decision to rescind a permit years after it was granted to Mingo Logan Coal Co.’s Spruce Mine negatively impacted West Virginia jobs, families and the state as a whole.”
Arch Coal, the parent company of Mingo Logan Coal, continues to appeal the EPA’s decision.
“The case will return to the (U.S.) district court for a ruling on the merits,” Arch said in a statement to MetroNews Monday.
The National Mining Association had a similar reaction.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but now the district court will hear the case on the merits. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet,” NMA spokesman Luke Popovich said.
Attorney General Morrisey said the case was more than about coal.
“It’s about private and public entities being able to have faith that when they make investments and get the necessary permits for those investments, those permits won’t be yanked back years later,” Morrisey said.
Arch Coal sued the EPA’s decision to take back the permit for mountaintop removal mining in Logan County after it had been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A federal judge threw out the EPA’s veto in 2012. However, in April 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia upheld the EPA’s authority.
The environmental community applauded Monday’s decision. Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Project Coordinator Vivian Stockman called it a gratifying outcome for water drinkers everywhere.
“The Court agrees that Congress gave EPA the authority to protect our waters from devastating harm, harm the proposed massive Spruce mountaintop removal mine would wreak if its permit was not vetoed,” Stockman said in a prepared statement. “By protecting clean water, EPA is ultimately protecting human health, and as recent events have underscored, here in central West Virginia we cannot depend on the coal industry, nor state government to protect human health by protecting clean water. We need EPA to be able to keep a check on things.”
West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney says Arch Coal still has a mountaintop removal operation at Spruce but nowhere near what it had planned. Raney said he’s disappointed but hopefully the case will get some traction in the Washington, D.C. circuit of U.S. District Court.
“You hate to go back to the same court that ruled against you first, but that’s what they say we’ve got to do,” Raney said. “They’ll do it with a lot of aggressiveness, energy and passion.”