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Oxford Mining Co. v. Nally

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20020
Nos. 13AP-883, (Ohio Ct. App., 01/22/2015)

An Ohio appellate court held that the state environmental review board erred in affirming portions of Ohio EPA's CWA §401 water quality certification that prohibited a coal mining company from impacting certain wetlands. The mining company, which has a permit to mine approximately 1,100 acres of land, applied for a CWA §401 water quality certification from the state due to the presence of wetlands on the site. The certification imposed several restrictions to impacts on certain streams and reclassified two areas as sensitive, category 3 wetlands. The review board upheld the restrictions and reclassification, and the company appealed, arguing that the board's determinations were not based in law. The court agreed. In classifying the wetlands as category 3, Ohio EPA failed to follow the plain words of its own rule or its own explanation and clarification regarding such wetlands. And neither the agency nor the board followed the state's wetlands assessment manual in reaching their conclusions. Because the manual was not followed and Ohio EPA failed to follow its own methodology for accurately categorizing wetlands, there is no evidence that Ohio EPA's procedure was conducted in a way that will yield an accurate result. Nor can the evidence be deemed reliable or substantial. The board, therefore, did not have a valid factual foundation to affirm the restrictions.