Chilling Decision

A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a case with wide-ranging ramifications.

Not long after President Barack Obama took office, his EPA revoked a permit for a surface mine in Logan County. The permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Spruce No. 1 mine already had been granted in 2007 by the Army Corps of Engineers.

However, soon after the Obama administration came into office, the EPA declared it had the power to retroactively veto coal mining pollution permits, which it did in this case.

As has been noted, the EPA action will be chilling for all economic development, not just mining. It means no one can ever be certain a federal permit or license, once granted, cannot be revoked with no new evidence in addition to that already submitted successfully to the government.

Yet this week, an appeals court ruled the EPA can do just that, stating the statute “expressly empowers (the EPA administrator) to prohibit, restrict or withdraw the specification ‘whenever’ he makes a determination that the statutory ‘unacceptable adverse effect’ will result.”

That ruling should be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Congress should curb the EPA’s power.