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Citizens Coal Council & Ky. Resources Council, Inc. v. EPA

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20114
Nos. No. 02-3628, (6th Cir., 10/07/2004)

The Sixth Circuit invalidated and remanded an EPA final rule that created and set regulations for two new subcategories under the coal mining point source category—the coal remining subcategory and the western alkaline coal mining subcategory. EPA reasonably concluded that it may create regulations for remining under the Clean Water Act (CWA) even where such regulations conflict with CWA §301(p), which concerns the remining of abandoned coal mines. Nonetheless, the court struck down EPA's regulations setting effluent limitations for the coal remining subcategory. Rather than identifying the technological tools available to coal reminers and then determining the amount of effluent reduction attainable, EPA first defined the level of pollution the Agency desired and then worked backward to define the technological tools as site-specific "plans" that would achieve the desired level of pollution. EPA therefore violated its duty under CWA §304(b) to determine, in terms of the amounts of pollutants, the degree of effluent reduction attainable by the various levels of technology. In addition, EPA failed to consider all the factors CWA §304 requires it to consider in establishing best management practices. Similarly, the court struck down the regulations implementing the western alkaline coal mining subcategory. By adopting non-numeric effluent limitations based on background conditions, EPA shirked its duties under CWA §304(b). EPA also failed to consider the CWA §304 factors when deciding best management control measures for the subcategory.