Earlier this year, a federal judge came down hard on the Environmental Protection Agency for overreaching its authority as part of a war against the coal industry and reasonable energy prices. But the EPA has appealed the judge's ruling, and that should make it clear Congress needs to step into the situation.
In January 2011, the EPA took an outrageous, unprecedented action. It revoked a surface mining permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had granted four years previously. The mine in question, in southern West Virginia, is owned by the Arch Coal Co.
EPA officials took the action despite the fact the Corps of Engineers had reviewed Arch's plans and determined they safeguarded water quality adequately.
This March, U.S. District Judge Amy B. Jackson ruled the EPA did not have the power to rescind the permits. In doing so, the agency exceeded the authority granted it by Congress, Jackson decided.
She is absolutely correct. The EPA has launched a campaign to wreck the coal industry and thus, force electric power costs up dramatically. If it is allowed to continue, entire states, including Ohio, will be devastated. Tens of millions of Americans will pay more for electricity. Many industries that rely on low-cost power will find they no longer can compete.
EPA officials appealed Jackson's ruling to the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
Much of the case involves technicalities such as how language in the Clean Water Act was written. Arch argues the law does not give the EPA any authority to revoke permits granted by the Corps of Engineers.
Obviously, agency officials disagree. They and some of their supporters make it clear the EPA doesn't care what effect its actions have on local economies that rely on the coal industry. Five environmental groups actually contend it was improper of Judge Jackson to consider the economic implications of the EPA's action.
Members of Congress who approved the Clean Water Act cannot possibly have envisioned the draconian uses to which the EPA would put the statute. Judges on the appeals court should uphold Jackson.
If, for some reason, they do not, Congress should step back into the picture with a law amending the Clean Water Act to rein in the EPA. Misusing that statute and others, the agency is engaged in a single-minded war on coal and reasonable energy prices - and it needs to be stopped.