The Environmental Protection Agency last year revoked a permit for a planned, 2,278-acre West Virginia coal mine that encapsulated everything wrong with a particularly destructive form of strip mining known as mountaintop removal. Two months ago, however, in a wrongheaded decision, a Federal District Court judge ruled that the agency had not only exceeded its authority but resorted to “magical thinking” to justify its action.
The agency has announced that it would appeal the judge’s decision. This is exactly the right move, on two counts. First, the Spruce No. 1 mine would have buried 6.6 miles of streams under tons of mining waste, inflicting permanent damage on the environment and local communities. Second, it is important for the E.P.A. to assert its authority under the Clean Water Act at a time when both the law and the agency are under fire in Congress.