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Court Restores Permits for Mountaintop Coal Mines

November 24, 2005|From Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated streamlined permitting for mountaintop-removal coal mines in West Virginia.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin last year revoked 11 permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Nationwide Permit 21 process, which is intended for activities that cause no more than minimal environmental damage.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously vacated Goodwin's decision, ruling that the corps complied with the Clean Water Act.

In mountaintop mining, hilltops are blasted away to uncover coal seams and the leftover rock and dirt are dumped into valleys, burying streams. The mining process has buried about 1,200 miles of streams between 1992 and 2002.

Corps spokesman Chuck Minsker said he had not seen the ruling and could not comment.

Coal officials in West Virginia and Kentucky hailed the ruling.

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