Saturday, March 24, 2007

The latest District Court opinion on mountaintop mining

The anti-mountaintop mining removal people are proud to post this opinion from Judge Chambers of the S.D. W.Va., issued March 23, and ruling against the federal government's issuance of permits for the disposal of fill materials from mountaintop removal into the waters of the United States.

The odds are that this is a bad decision, from the perspective of administrative law. The presumptions are mainly in favor of the agency decision. The judge has ruled, in effect, that the pros at the Army Corps of Engineers bypassed some of the things they were supposed to think about before making their permit decisions, and so he remanded the permits for them to do more. One suspects that in another two years, they'll be back in the same place.

The opinion does contain one cool movie reference at footnote 65 - to Field of Dreams, one of my favorites. The plaintiffs characterized the Corps of Engineers' position on an issue related to new streams as the Field of Dreams theory, "[a]s in '[i]f you build it, [the streams] will come.

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