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Consolidation Coal Co. v. Costle

Citation: 9 ELR 20511
No. No. 76-1690, 604 F.2d 239/13 ERC 1289/(4th Cir., 06/25/1979)

The Fourth Circuit upholds water pollution regulations promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for existing facilities in the coal industry, with the exception of certain clauses establishing variance criteria because they fail to require consideration of factors relating to best practicable control technology. The variance regulations do, however, properly exclude consideration of the quality of the receiving water as a basis for imposing less stringent discharge standards. Ruling that the existence of a foreshortened lead time between promulgation of effluent limitations and the deadline for compliance does not invalidate the regulations, the court noted that Congress provided for deadline extensions where compliance problems were due to Agency delay. Establishment of suspended solids limitations for mines in western states was properly deferred pending further study, where enforcement officials are authorized to set limitations on a case-by-case basis that are at least as stringent as those applicable to eastern mines. Finally, the court rules that EPA's regulatory scheme for the coal industry is not rendered void by the Agency's failure to regulate post-mining discharges under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act despite the Act's §301(e) mandate to regulate all point sources of pollution without exception. The court concludes that EPA's decision to gather more data before issuing regulations so as to ensure the necessary consistency with the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act's pending regulations regarding post-mining discharge was proper under the circumstances. The court notes that even without national standards, the Agency may still regulate post-mining pollution through issuance of individual permits. An additional measure of environmental protection may be provided by certified state effluent limitations, since these limitations must be incorporated into discharge permits as long as a national standard is lacking.

Counsel for Petitioner Coal Corporations
George C. Freeman, Michael B. Barr
Hunton & Williams
P.O. Box 19230, Washington DC 20036
(202) 393-7400

Theodore L. Garrett
Covington & Burling
888 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 452-6000

Counsel for Petitioner Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
K. W. James Rochow, Ass't Attorney General
Department of Justice
Capitol Annex Building, Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-3391

Counsel for Respondent
James A. Rogers, Assoc. General Counsel
Office of the General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 755-2511

James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General; Angus McBeth, Lee R. Tyner
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2701

Joined by Widener and Hall, JJ.