CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration appears to have exceeded its legal authority in launching tougher permit reviews and issuing new water quality guidance as part of its crackdown on mountaintop removal coal mining, a federal judge has ruled.
But U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington, D.C., also ruled that the coal industry has not shown an urgent need for a court injunction to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's actions from shutting down coal-mining operations.
In a Friday ruling, Walton denied the EPA's request that he throw out the suit, but also refused to grant a preliminary injunction the National Mining Association sought against the agency.
The decision is the first legal ruling in the mining industry's effort to undo Obama administration permit reviews and water quality guidance that EPA says are designed to "significantly reduce the harmful consequences of Appalachian surface coal mining operations."
EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said the agency was reviewing the judge's decision and had no immediate comment.
In a prepared statement, the National Mining Association said that it was encouraged that the judge said its suit may prevail on the merits, but disappointed that there was no preliminary injunction granted.
"We remain committed to pursuing the merits of our case," said mining group President Hal Quinn.