On July 31, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton (federal district court for the District of Columbia) ruled that the U.S. EPA exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the federal Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMRCA) in the July 21, 2011, regulatory guidance issued to regional EPA offices regarding permits for mountaintop coal-mining in Appalachian states. (The July 2011 “final guidance” replaced an April 2010 “interim guidance” that had also been challenged in this federal district court.) The judge held that the guidance’s in effect developed a water-quality standard, or a “regional water-quality criterion,” in its expectation for states to take into account such mining’s impacts stream levels of conductivity (a measure of the amount of solids dissolved in water). The court held that this has illegally infringed upon the states’ water-quality standard-setting authority under the CWA. Access to the court opinion is available online at https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/Opinions.pl?2012; the case is Civil Action No. 2010-1220, National Mining Association v. Jackson et al. (This case combined three other cases: Civil Action No. 2011-0295, Huffman et al v. United States Environmental Protection Agency et al; Civil Action No. 2011-0447, Gorman Company, LLC et al v. Jackson et al; and Civil Action No. 2011-0446, Kentucky Coal Association v. United States Environmental Protection Agency et al.)
Sources: Web site for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, at http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/dcd/, 8/1/12; and US judge: EPA illegally seized powers given to states on water-quality guidance for coal mine, Associated Press, as published in Washington Post, 7/31/12. Access to the July 21, 2011, guidance and related documents is available via EPA Issues Final Guidance to Protect Water Quality in Appalachian Communities from Impacts of Mountaintop Mining, U.S. EPA News Release, 7/21/11.