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US judge strikes down EPA water rules for mines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal judge says the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its powers by setting up water-quality criteria for coal mining operations in Appalachia.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a coal mining industry coalition against the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson. Walton said the EPA infringed on the authority given to state regulators by federal clean water and surface mining acts.

Last year, the EPA tightened guidelines on the practice of dumping waste into Appalachian valley waterways from surface mine blasting.

The National Mining Association, which had denounced the guidelines as a "jobs destroyer," says it's now time to get miners back to work by allowing state permitting agencies to do their jobs.

Governor Steve Beshear voiced his support of the judge's decision.

"Today's action by the federal court is a victory for coal miners who have seen mines close and their jobs put in jeopardy due, in part, to the actions of the federal EPA,” Governor Beshear said.

"I urge the EPA to act now to release these permits and allow Kentucky's coal miners to get back to work,” Beshear said.

The president of the Kentucky Coal Association said the changes will not be immediate, but will change the future of the industry.

"The positive affect of the decision today will take time to be seen in the eastern kentucky coal fields," said Bill Bissett.
"But the good news is the permit pipeline that has been clogged with this kind of bureaucracy is now clear. This court has clearly showed that the EPA acted illegally and unfairly when it came to eastern kentucky coal mines."

So far, there's been no reaction from the EPA.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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