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Spruce Mine
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., struck down the EPA's ruling and said the permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers "remains valid and in full force."  The federal judge said the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority in revoking a permit for an Arch Coal, Inc. surface mine that was to be the largest proposed mountaintop-removal coal mine in Appalachia. The process involves blasting the tops off mountains to gain access to coal seams while filling in valleys and streams with the overlying dirt and rock.

The decision is a setback for federal regulators in a case that has been closely watched by the mining industry and environmental groups opposed to a form of mining called mountaintop removal. The EPA revoked the permit for Arch's Spruce Mine No. 1 in rural Logan County, W.Va., in January 2011, arguing that the potential harm to streams and watershed areas surrounding the project could be significant. The permit had previously been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. It was the first time since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 that the EPA had canceled a water permit for a project after it was issued.

Judge Jackson sided with the company's argument that the EPA lacked the authority to modify or revoke the water permit. "The Court concludes that the statute does not give EPA the power to render a permit invalid once is has been issued by the Corps," Judge Jackson wrote.  (WSJ, 3/23/2012)