MAC: Mines and Communities

US environment agency defends its stance against coal

Published by MAC on 2010-08-30
Source: Planet Ark

The USA's enviornmental protection agency (EPA) last year declared that climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions "endanger human health and the environment".

In retaliation, the country's pro-coal lobby has challenged the scientific basis of the findings, while mining companies are now suing the agency for denying them permits to mine.

EPA Denies Challenges To Greenhouse Gas Rule

By Deborah Zabarenko


30 July 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday rejected 10 petitions challenging EPA's 2009 finding that climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health and the environment.

The EPA received petitions questioning the scientific basis for the so-called endangerment finding -- which cleared the way for the EPA to curb carbon dioxide emissions -- from Texas and Virginia and groups like the Ohio Coal Association.

With the U.S. Senate abandoning climate measures in the energy bill until at least September, the EPA has the authority to regulate emissions from such human activities as coal-fired power plants and fossil-fueled factories and vehicles.

"The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. "These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination."

Environmental advocates praised the agency's decision for its reliance on decades of research and the need for action to limit climate-warming emissions.

"Some senators insist Congress should set global warming policy, not the EPA, but ... the Senate has failed to get the job done," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Their failure to address climate exposes their attacks on the EPA for what they are -- a blatant attempt to eliminate the primary tool the government has to protect human health."

Senator James Inhofe, one of Washington's most vocal climate change skeptics, blasted EPA's move.

"EPA chose ... to dismiss legitimate concerns about data quality, transparency, and billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded science as products of 'conspiracies,'" Inhofe said in a statement. "Rather, such ad hominem attacks are products of closed-mindedness and ultimately harm EPA's reputation and legal standing in court."

The EPA received petitions from the Coalition for Responsible Regulation, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Ohio Coal Association, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Peabody Energy Company, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the State of Texas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and one private citizen.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II called the decision "fatally flawed procedurally because the agency has reviewed and weighed new information without notice or comment from the public."

Some of the petitioners had filed their complaints in federal courts.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

Coal Companies Sue EPA Over Mine Permit Delays

By Steve James


21 July 2010

The National Mining Association, which represents most major U.S. coal mining companies, on Tuesday filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it was unlawfully obstructing permits for coal mining operations in Central Appalachia.

EPA's delaying of mountaintop mining permits has jeopardized thousands of jobs and supply of a fuel vital to meeting national electric power needs, said the lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

The NMA suit against EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contends they have circumvented requirements for public notice and comment on federal statutes and ignored calls for "peer-reviewed science" as part of "a deliberate policy to substitute agency 'guidance' for formal rulemaking."

A spokeswoman said EPA is reviewing the suit, and added: "EPA's mining guidance is fully consistent with the law and the best available science and will help ensure that Americans living in coal country don't have to choose between a healthy environment for their families and the jobs they need to support them."

Since the Obama administration came into office, the EPA has put almost 200 permits in Appalachia for surface, or mountaintop, mining on hold for "enhanced review." That sparked complaints from mining companies that it was aimed at banning the technique, in which mines are dug directly into the side of mountains and debris is discarded in springs and rivers.

"EPA has usurped authorities clearly granted to the states and other federal agencies and has used technical benchmarks for assessing water quality that are both arbitrary and capricious," the NMA suit said.

"Detailed agency guidance is not a valid substitute for lawful rulemaking based on public notice and comment," NMA president and chief executive Hal Quinn said in a statement.

"The agencies' continued abuse of the law to impose arbitrary standards on mining operations, state agencies and other federal regulatory bodies threatens the entire region with further economic misery and stagnant employment."

The NMA said EPA's action resulted in a de facto moratorium on coal mining "that is irreparably harming NMA's member companies, the welfare of coal communities and the economy."

It said a May 21 report by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority staff stated nearly 18,000 new and existing jobs and more than 80 small businesses are jeopardized by the policy EPA and the Corps have applied to the 190 permits still awaiting action in mid-May.

(Editing by Gary Hill)

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