FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF THOMAS L. SANSONETTI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, REGARDING THE NOTICE OF APPEAL IN THE OHIO VALLEY ENVIRONMENTAL COALITION V. BULEN
“Today, the United States filed a notice in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia that would appeal the District Court’s decision in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Bulen to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The appeal is in response to the District Court’s order enjoining many coal mining projects in southern West Virginia. The court’s ruling invalidated a Clean Water Act permit known as Nationwide Permit 21, or “NWP 21,” under which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may authorize surface mining projects to discharge rock, dirt, and other fill material into streams if the discharges will have only minimal adverse effects on the environment.
“The court’s ruling means there are now inconsistent standards for coal mining in the U.S. In the Southern District of West Virginia, the Corps of Engineers is enjoined from authorizing new mining projects under NWP 21, and is ordered to suspend authorizations for those projects in which construction had not commenced as of July 8, 2004. In contrast, the order does not affect coal mining in any other portion of West Virginia or any other state.
“The decision, while limited to the southern part of West Virginia, will substantially curtail production of West Virginia coal that is low in sulfur and, therefore, less polluting.
“Although the mining companies may still apply for individual permits under the Clean Water Act, the invalidation of NWP 21 prevents the Corps of Engineers from effectively using a less burdensome and more streamlined statutory program that has been in place since 1984.
“The Administration remains committed to protecting human health and the environment in all mining authorizations, but believes that the court erroneously invalidated a key tool in regulating mine projects.”