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Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today released the following statement about the U.S. District Court ruling that the EPA cannot retroactively veto the Spruce Mine permit issued for by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

“I applaud our courts for stating clearly and unequivocally that a bureaucratic agency like the EPA cannot run the lives of hardworking Americans,” Senator Manchin said.  “I always knew that the EPA’s decision to retroactively veto a coal mining permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County was fundamentally wrong and an unprecedented act by the federal government. 

My first piece of legislation - the EPA Fair Play Act - addressed the very concerns of the EPA retroactively vetoing permits, and now we have more evidence to show that the EPA was dead wrong on this. The court's conclusion that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act is not reasonable and - I quote - 'the agency was completely unable to articulate what the practical consequence of its action would be' is a damning assessment of what happens when an agency puts personal agendas ahead of the law and the scope of agency authority.  Today justice was served, and while this fight continues in our court system, I will continue to fight in Congress to rein in the EPA.”  

Background:

  • The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled today that the Mingo Logan permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to section 404 of the Clean Water Act, DA Permit No. 199800436-3 is valid. The conclusion: the “EPA’s interpretation of [the Clean Water Act]…is not reasonable. . . .[and]  [n]either the statute nor the Memorandum of Agreement between the EPA and the Corps makes any provision for a post-permit veto, and the agency was completely unable to articulate what the practical consequence of its action would be.” In addition, the Court also wrote that "[the Clean Water Act] does not give EPA the power to render a permit invalid once it has been issued by the Corps.”

  • Senator Manchin's first-ever piece of legislation was the ‘EPA Fair Play Act,’ to check the power of the EPA and prevent the agency from retroactively vetoing permits. 

  • The permit for the Spruce Mine had been approved after an exhaustive, approximately 10-year regulatory process that included extensive review by the EPA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the Section 404(c) permit, which is a requirement for constructing clean valley fills, a process used in surface coal mining. The EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to “veto” Section 404(c) permits before they are awarded by the U.S. Army Corps.  However, the EPA had never before attempted to veto a previously awarded and active permit.

  • Mingo Logan Coal Company - which had been awarded the Spruce Mine permit - was poised to invest $250 million in the Spruce Mine project, which would have created about 200 good-paying jobs with benefits.

  • As Governor, Senator Manchin filed the first lawsuit against the EPA for overstepping its authority, and in that case, the U.S. District Court issued a partial summary judgment ruling that the agency is doing just that. On Oct. 6, 2011, Senator Manchin issued the following statement about that ruling. "I’m excited to hear that the federal court has ruled in favor of West Virginia – and against the EPA for overstepping their boundaries – on this partial summary judgment. I’m very hopeful that this will put us on the path of receiving the permits that are needed to provide the energy and the jobs not just for West Virginia but for this entire country. This is a great day for West Virginia.” This case is progressing as well.

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