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Court allows mountaintop mining

Associated Press / February 14, 2009
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal appeals court overturned a ruling yesterday requiring more extensive environmental reviews of mountaintop removal, a form of coal mining in Appalachia that blasts away whole peaks.

A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond ruled, 2 to 1, that the Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop-removal coal mines without more extensive reviews. The court also overturned a related ruling that using ponds to remove sediment from streams at mountaintop mines violates the Clean Water Act.

The rulings are a blow to environmentalists and coalfield neighbors who oppose the highly efficient but destructive practice that exposes shallow coal seams.

Mountaintop permits have slowed to a trickle since March 2007, when the Army engineers were ordered by a federal judge to rescind several permits.

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