In its suit, the mining association alleges this process "adds significant additional time to the corps regulatory review" and is "dramatically altering timelines" for companies to receive new mining permits.
This April, EPA also announced a new guidance for its regional offices in reviewing water pollution permits for mining projects being considered for issuance by state agencies like West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection.
The new guidance calls for much tougher review, and perhaps rejection of permits, based on the potential to increase the electrical conductivity of streams, which is a stronger measure of many harmful pollutants from mining and has been linked to damage of aquatic life.
EPA made its guidance effective immediately on an interim basis, but is also conducting an eight-month public comment period and subjecting the scientific reports the guidance is based upon to peer review.
In its suit, the mining association said the guidance constitutes a rulemaking that should have gone through a public comment before it was put into effect.
On orders from Gov. Joe Manchin, the state Department of Environmental Protection last week filed a similar lawsuit against EPA and the Corps of Engineers.
"The National Mining Association's challenge is an attempt to avoid the law and derail strong science -- both of which will protect the people and communities of Appalachia," said Earthjustice attorney Jennifer Chavez, who is representing the citizen groups.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.