CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coal industry lawyers on Tuesday sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to try to slow down the Obama administration's efforts to more strictly regulate mountaintop removal mining.
The National Mining Association filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., over EPA's more detailed review of mining permit applications and a new set of recommended water quality guidelines for surface coal mining in Appalachia.
In the 42-page complaint, the association alleges EPA's permit reviews were an effort to "rob" other agencies of their regulatory role and charges that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson ignored requirements for public involvement when she issued the new water pollution guidelines.
"NMA members' efforts to navigate this unlawful process and obtain reasonable and predictable permit terms have been unsuccessful, leaving us no choice but to challenge the EPA and Corps policy in court," said NMA President Hal Quinn. "Detailed agency guidance is not a valid substitute for lawful rulemaking based on public notice and comment."
EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency is reviewing the coal industry lawsuit.
"EPA's mining guidance is fully consistent with the law and the best available science and will help ensure that Americans living in coal country don't have to choose between a healthy environment for their families and the jobs they need to support them," Gilfillan said in a prepared statement.
While the coal industry favors mountaintop removal's efficiency, and local political leaders praise the jobs provided, there is a growing scientific consensus that the practice is causing widespread and irreversible damage to the region's forests, water quality and communities.