The yo-yo that is the technical legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s manipulation of the Clean Water Act to crush Appalachia’s energy sector continues to spring up and down as two appellate courts have invalidated previous lower court decisions which ruled that the EPA had overstepped its bounds when it blocked mining permits approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers years prior.
These most recent rulings from U.S. Courts of Appeals in both Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. once again put hundreds of mining jobs at risk and bring to a halt millions of dollars worth of economic activity. It also puts the kibosh on operations at Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in West Virginia, for a total of 2,300 acres worth of economic stagnation.
And according to Tom Fitzgerald, an environmental attorney in Louisville, the damage isn’t likely to stop here. There could be as many as 70 other mining permits soon targeted by the power recently returned to the EPA. Not good.
Now the cases will return to district courts where judges will decide not whether the feds have the power to overturn mining permits in general, but whether they did so “arbitrarily and capriciously” in these specific instances.
Still, though it took more than a year for appeal decisions to be handed down, the legal battle over which entities have jurisdiction over Kentucky’s energy sector is likely to rage on – with the commonwealth itself having a deflatingly small say in the matter. Just why is it that courts in Cincinnati or Washington, D.C., or federal bureaucracies in the mid-Atlantic get to decide how coal is mined, sold, and used in the commonwealth? Wouldn’t commonsense have those most affected by the pros and cons of Kentucky’s energy sector, Kentuckians, be the ones who decide the fate of Kentucky coal – not some far-away federal masters?
Kentuckians should be insulted with how little control we actually do have left, with how much control has been stolen from our hands and from the very land our most valuable resource is mined from.