Judge Says Bush Plan Violates Clean Water Act
W.Va. (AP) - A federal judge's ruling that bans the dumping
of waste from mountaintop coal mining into streams was
hailed by environmentalists as a victory for the waterways
of Appalachia, but attacked by miners as a threat to the
District Judge Charles Haden II issued the ruling Wednesday,
agreeing with a Kentucky citizen group that the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers' Huntington, W.Va., district office
didn't have the authority to issue permits to dump mountaintop
could not continue to annihilate our hills and our streams,''
said Patty Wallace, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Inc. ``Too many people are willing to shove it off on
the next generation.''
ruling runs counter to a recent Bush administration decision
to amend a clean-water rule to allow the mining practice.
In his ruling, Haden said such a change would violate
the federal Clean Water Act.
permits banned in the ruling were issued to coal companies
seeking to practice mountaintop coal mining, in which
the tops of mountains are sheared off by explosives and
large earth-moving machines are used to expose coal seams.
federal mining laws require companies to restore land
to its approximate original contour, companies have received
permits to dump tons of excess rock and dirt into valley
believe that reasonably priced energy from coal requires
cheap disposal of the vast amounts of waste material created
when mountaintops are removed to get at the natural resource,''
Haden wrote in Wednesday's ruling.
did not, however, authorize cheap waste disposal when
it passed the Clean Water Act,'' he wrote.
had also ruled in 1999 that dumping mine waste in streams
violated federal law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
overturned that ruling, saying Haden lacked jurisdiction
because the underlying lawsuit in that case involved a
latest ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed against the
corps in February by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
group sued to halt Beechfork Processing Inc.'s mountaintop
removal mine in Martin County, Ky. The excess rock and
soil from the mine would bury more than six miles of stream.
lawsuit was filed in West Virginia because the corps'
Huntington bureau, which covers West Virginia and parts
of Kentucky and Ohio, issued the permit.
think Judge Haden was predisposed to do what he did,''
said Bill Caylor of the Kentucky Coal Association, which
intervened in the lawsuit.
the judge's ruling will be overturned or the Appalachian
coal industry will be shut down,'' he said.
spokesman Steve Wright said agency officials were reviewing
the ruling. He said at least 10 federal permits are pending
for West Virginia mines and nine for Kentucky mines.